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When Jonas Park was booked into Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail while actively experiencing Opiate withdrawal, he was never given the recommended treatment nor seen by a mental health professional. Instead, he was placed in a single, isolated cell and only given the chance to leave it once during the time they spent in custody, according to a new lawsuit Filed in federal court.

Just five days after arriving at the Dublin jail, the 33-year-old inmate, who had a history of anxiety and bipolar disorder, allegedly hung himself in his cell.

In a lawsuit Filed on March 22 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Park’s family alleges that his death was a result of Alameda County, Sheriff Gregory Ahern and correctional healthcare provider Wellpath’s “deliberate indifference” to Park’s “serious, emergency medical and mental health needs. ” In particular, the lawsuit claims that staff at the jail lack adequate training and policies in medical and mental health screening and therefore fail to identify, treat and supervise incarcerated people who are at risk for suicide.

Sanjay Schmidt, a San Francisco-based attorney representing Park’s family, said he hopes the lawsuit will “deliver justice” to the family and help prevent a needless death like this from occurring again by promoting robust policy changes that will keep all inmates safe and address all of their mental and medical health needs. “

It is the second lawsuit filed against Alameda County and Ahern in the past month regarding concerns about the health and safety of detainees at Santa Rita Jail. Earlier this month, the family of a woman who allegedly overdosed on Fentanyl last year at Santa Rita Sued in the county, arguing that “inadequate mental health care, inhumane living conditions, and an inadequate drug search policy” all led to her death.

The jail, which is run by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, is one of the largest in the state, holding about 2,000 detainees on any given day. In recent years, treatment of people with mental Disabilities and substance abuse incarcerated there – including a practice of locking inmates in isolation for extended periods of time – has drawn public Outrage, as well as several lawsuits and federal investigations.

From 2015 through 2019, at least 14 inmates at the Santa Rita Jail died of suicide – a rate more than twice the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. While no detainees took their own lives in 2020, the Park was one of two Santa Rita inmates to kill themselves in the first four months of 2021.

Ray Kelly, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office, declined to comment on Park’s case or the latest lawsuit, citing the pending litigation.

Park, who was arrested on charges in connection with a burglary, was booked into Santa Rita in the early morning on Feb. 4, 2021. A health screening conducted at that time indicated that he had Fentanyl, ecstasy and methamphetamine in his system, among other drugs. The staffer who conducted the screening allegedly noted “alerts” in his paperwork for “chronic care,” “suicide watch” and “active withdrawal.”

According to the lawsuit, those alerts should have a warranted referral to an opiate-withdrawal treatment program and mental health evaluation. But, the suit claims, Park was not provided with either of those services.

Instead, although Park was dealing with withdrawal from opiates, jail staff issued treatment for alcohol withdrawal – and still failed to follow those directions, according to the suit.

All the while, Park was assigned to a single cell in isolation or “restrictive” housing – meaning that he would rarely be allowed to leave his cell and when he was, would be given no opportunity to interact with others nor go outdoors. The county has historically used this type of isolation to manage inmates with mental health needs, according to the lawsuit.

On Feb. 7, 2021, three days after getting booked into Santa Rita, Park requested medical attention because he was “feeling Shaky” from withdrawal. The staffer “provided Gatorade” but failed to refer to the Park for any additional medical care or treatment. Two days later, he was found dead in his cell. The Alameda County Coroner’s Office determined his cause of death was hanging, the lawsuit states.

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