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The Death Dilemma Inside the Monterey County Jail: Concerns Over Wellpath’s Medical Services

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. - After six deaths at the Monterey County Jail this year, one as late as October has raised serious questions about the quality of medical care provided to inmates. The Hernandez class-action lawsuit, which was originally settled in 2015, has resurfaced, with plaintiffs alleging that the contracted medical services provider, Wellpath, has failed to meet its obligations. Recent data from the California Department of Justice reveals alarming statistics that show a significantly higher death rate at the Monterey County Jail compared to the state average.

According to the data provided by the California Department of Justice, approximately 11 deaths occur in the Monterey County Jail per 100,000 inmates. This figure is nearly four times higher than the state average, which stands at three deaths per 100,000 inmates. 

In 2015, the Hernandez class-action lawsuit brought attention to concerns surrounding the quality of medical services provided to inmates at the Monterey County Jail. Now, the lawsuit is being reinforced by a group of attorneys representing the plaintiffs who claim that Wellpath, the contracted medical services provider, has failed to live up to their obligations.

We talked to family members of inmates in the jail and agreed to keep their identities anonymous to protect them and their relative whose currently in the jail.

“I would like them to please take seriously the requests of the inmates when they're requesting medical attention because it can be life-threatening.”

Cara Trapani is one of the attorneys overseeing the case.

What we filed earlier this year was a motion to enforce those orders and enforce the requirements. And we've asked the court to sanction Wellpath for its continued noncompliance, because as we presented to the court in our motion, the violations that Wellpath continues to, to have are causing significant harm and death to people at the jail.” - Said Cara Trapani

According to the lawsuit, Wellpath's overall compliance decreased from 48.1% in March 2017 to 42.6% in October 2022. This decline in compliance is a cause for alarm as it indicates a failure to meet the standards and expectations outlined in the agreement between Wellpath and the county. The lawsuit alleges that this lack of compliance has contributed to the high number of deaths within the Monterey County Jail, further emphasizing the need for immediate action.

In response to the allegations, Wellpath's spokesperson, Chris Hartline, issued a statement acknowledging the operational challenges faced at the facility. He stated, “We recognize that there are significant operational challenges at this facility and, along with the new administration, are in the process of taking steps to address the unacceptable outcomes. While this is a process that takes time, it is a priority. We are committed to addressing and solving these issues expeditiously and ensuring every facility where Wellpath operates abides by the rigorous and thorough standards that we uphold as a company." - Chris Hartline, Spokesperson Wellpath. 

Despite the concerns raised and the allegations against Wellpath, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors has renewed the company's contract through 2025 for a substantial amount of $44.3 million. For some, this decision raises eyebrows and invites scrutiny regarding the county's approach to addressing the issues surrounding inmate care and the high death rate within the jail.

“The men and women of Monterey County are laser-focused on meeting those mandates. It's the best for the inmates, the incarcerated population. It's the best for the people of Monterey County. It's in all our best interests to meet these mandates and to meet substantial client compliance for the Hernandez settlement so we can move forward as a county.” - Tina Nieto, Sheriff, Monterey County

The reinforcement of the Hernandez class-action lawsuit should serve as a wake-up call for Monterey County officials and Wellpath. 

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