ORLANDO, Fla. — 9 Investigates continues to uncover new concerns about a company that provides medical care for inmates in several local county jails.
The Flagler County sheriff has launched a criminal and internal investigation into the care provided to 23-year-old inmate Anthony Fennick, after he died on Saturday. His family told investigative reporter Karla Ray that he had been complaining of a fever and headache for days before being rushed to the hospital unresponsive. Two Armor Correctional Health Services employees have been removed from the jail while the investigation continues, according to Sheriff’s Office officials.
At the same time, the Lake County sheriff has notified Armor Correctional of an intent to break the contract with the company, which was supposed to be in place until September 2020. A spokesperson confirmed the contract was being canceled amid concerns about performance, following several 9 Investigates reports about inmate deaths and policy violations at that jail.
9 Investigates first uncovered a questionable death under the care of Armor Correctional in 2016. In that case, records show Brevard County inmate Charles Jones had been complaining of severe stomach pain for days before his bowel burst. He died of sepsis, and his family filed a lawsuit in the summer of 2018.
In Lake County, questions by 9 Investigates prompted a full review of Armor’s services after we exposed the death of James Anglin. Records show Anglin died after vomiting for hours in his cell, during drug withdrawal. Despite repeated requests by Anglin, other inmates and even a jail guard, an Armor Correctional nurse refused to check on him, according to the paperwork. “She advised she would see him in the morning,” the narrative states. “Since Mr. Anglin missed the medication pass earlier in the evening, she was not coming.”
“I never expected this from a facility that should have been watching,” Anglin’s mother, Pia Sachetta, said in 2018.
Watch: Contract canceled, investigation launched after 2 inmate deaths in 2 counties
After exposing Anglin’s death, 9 Investigates uncovered that Armor nurses failed to follow the company’s own protocol with another Lake County inmate who was going through similar withdrawal. Tiffany Allen committed suicide in the jail, but a review of her death prompted by our questions found three different Armor nurses failed to document detox medications Allen was given, and never consulted with a doctor on her care. A mental health professional told investigators that Allen should have never gone into the general population and instead should have been monitored.
“When you start to see, all over the place and in different areas, that there's multiple failures in duty to provide good care, you start to be concerned that there's a systemic breakdown in the company,” attorney Jack Cook, of Morgan and Morgan, said. Cook is representing Sachetta in her fight for justice for her son.
In Flagler County, Armor’s past issues make Fennick’s family question his care inside the jail, where he was serving a 300-day sentence for violating the terms of his drug court probation.
“Every ache and pain, I heard it in my ears,” Fennick’s mother, Erika Williams, said.
Williams said she counted five days of complaints, in phone calls she believes were recorded, before Sheriff’s Office records show the 23-year-old father was rushed from his cell to Advent Health Palm Coast. A heavily redacted report shows Fennick, who has a 2-year-old daughter, was checked into the hospital a week ago today after he had been complaining of a headache and vomiting.
“He already had brain swelling and fluid in his brain when he got to the hospital,” Williams said of her oldest son, who was taken off life support on Saturday.
Lake County is in the process of looking for a new company to take over its inmate medical services.
Ken Palombo, Armor Correctional Health Services' chief operating officer, provided 9 Investigates with the following statement Monday afternoon:
"Armor has been and continues to be focused on delivering quality care to our patients. Flagler County Sheriff's staff, in conjunction with Armor caregivers have ensured compassionate patient care to many inmates over the past several years. Sadly, despite the best efforts of caregivers, occasionally a patient's condition results in death. This is true both in jails and the finest hospitals in America. Armor understands and supports the Sheriff's need to review circumstances surrounding an inmate/patient death. While it does sting when individuals with no factual knowledge of circumstances make hurtful and accusatory allegations, Armor's caregivers stay focused on their mission of compassionate care.
"I received notice late last week of Lake County's decision to terminate our contract. During the call that I received, I was told the decision had nothing to do with the quality of patient care, which reaffirms Armor's sole focus to delivering quality care to our patients. While it really hurt to learn we were losing our Lake County partner, we appreciate the opportunity the Sheriff has given us over the past several years. We have great respect for the Capt., Major and the Sheriff's entire team at the Lake County jail. It is not an easy task to work within the correctional setting, and those of us on the outside of the jail owe the men and women that work in corrections a great deal of respect. We wish Sheriff Grinnell and staff much success in their efforts on behalf of the citizens of Lake County."
A GoFundMe account created for Fennick has raised more than $3,000.
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