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38-year-old inmate dies after being denied HIV meds, lawsuit claims


38-year-old inmate dies after being denied HIV meds, lawsuit claims
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The company providing health care services to the California prison has previously been accused of failing HIV-positive inmates.

An inmate recently died from AIDS-related complications and his family says it’s because prison officials didn’t provide him with lifesaving HIV medications, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Nicholas Overfield was serving time in an El Dorado County prison in northern California after missing a court date related to a previous criminal case (Overfield’s family didn’t disclose the nature of that crime to the Times). When Overfield’s mother, Lesley Overfield, went to visit her son in the facility in 2022, he was so weak he was in a wheelchair, could barely lift his head, and was unable to utter a word. The elder Overfield soon leapt into action, alerting prison officials about her son’s deteriorating condition. A day after their visit he was sent to the hospital and was soon admitted to hospice care. Weeks later, Overfield died of varicella zoster virus encephalitis, an AIDS-related complication.

When Overfield was first arrested, his mother alerted police officers that her son was HIV-positive and gave them his antiretroviral medication. The entire time he was in El Dorado County Jail, Overfield did not receive any of his HIV meds, according to his family’s lawsuit. Medical records obtained by the newspaper show that a hospital nurse confirmed with a jail nurse that Overfield was never given his meds.

“In a tragic and inevitable turn of events, Nick’s health had deteriorated at an alarming rate during and as a result of his detention at El Dorado County Jail,” Overfield family attorney Ty Clarke wrote in the lawsuit. “Despite having Nick’s prescribed HIV medication, and despite having been told [by] Nick upon his arrest that he needed his HIV medication to keep his HIV in check, Defendants failed to provide Nick with his HIV medication. As a direct and proximate result, Nick’s HIV devolved into AIDS.”

The lawsuit targets both El Dorado County Jail and Wellpath Community Care, a company that provides medical care to several correctional facilities. Clarke says Wellpath has a history of failing to provide HIV meds to patients; something confirmed by the Justice Department in a 2021 investigation.

“Medications for prisoners with HIV are frequently delayed or not provided during the entirety of a prisoner’s incarceration, which can cause treatment failure by creating drug resistance, or by failing to keep viral loads at an undetectable level,” wrote lawyers for the Justice Department in their report on Wellpath.

Officials at Wellpath nor El Dorado County did not respond to the Times’ request for comment.

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Neal Broverman

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Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.