News (USA)

Jail allegedly denied father-of-two his HIV meds. Now he’s dead.

A corrections officer walking through a jail
Photo: Shutterstock

A California mother is suing a county government and a prison medical provider for allegedly failing to provide HIV medication to her inmate son, leading to his eventual death.

Police in El Dorado County arrested Lesley Overfield’s 38-year-old son Nicholas Overfield in February 2022 after he failed to appear for a court date. Upon his arrest, she gave the arresting officers his HIV medication and told them of his HIV status so he could receive medical treatment in jail.

She began visiting him every two weeks at El Dorado County Jail, according to The Los Angeles Times. However, when she visited him that following April, she said his health had deteriorated.

“When they brought him into the visiting area, they wheeled him in a wheelchair,” she told ABC News. “He was too weak to get up, so they had to help him out. And feed him at the visitor’s booths. He was so disoriented and confused. He couldn’t even figure out how to use the phone – which you don’t dial it. You just pick it up and put it to your ear. He was so weak. He couldn’t do that.”

He didn’t have the energy to lift the phone to speak with her. Instead, he just put his head down on the table — the two never spoke during the visit.

That day, she demanded “the jail provide Nick with the medical care he clearly needed,” her lawsuit states, and he was taken to a San Francisco hospital that same evening. But four months later, in June, her son entered hospice care and soon died of varicella zoster virus encephalitis, a viral infection associated with advanced stages of untreated HIV. Medical records showed that her son never received HIV medication in jail.

She’s now suing El Dorado County and Wellpath Community Care, a company that oversees medical treatment for roughly 275,000 inmates in nearly 500 jails and prisons nationwide. She’s seeking injunctive relief to force the county and Wellpath to change their policies as well as monetary compensation for their neglect. Her lawsuit says that jail and Wellpath officials were either unaware or unconcerned with her son’s well-being.

Lesley Overfield said her son, who was a father of two, was “an all-around good guy” with lots of friends and was “always willing to help anybody” but sometimes stayed at her home because “he had no place to go.”

“I’m very disappointed, very angry. I would like justice for my son,” she said. “I would like some accountability for their actions. Why did my son lay there in jail for two weeks with no one addressing it?”

This isn’t the first time that Wellpath has been accused of denying HIV medications to inmates. A 2021 Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation found that Wellpath failed to provide such medications to some inmates in San Luis Obispo County Jail.

“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,” DOJ lawyers wrote in their report.

While private-equity-owned healthcare companies operate in jails and prisons nationwide, inmates in those jails are more likely to die than in jails where counties provide the healthcare, a 2020 Reuters investigation found.

In January Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wrote a letter to Wellpath about “reports of inadequate care at federal, state, and local prisons and jails.”

“While some contracts increase Wellpath’s compensation for emergency services such as ambulance runs or decrease compensation for failures such as not triaging sick call requests, pay generally does not increase with the volume, quality, or complexity of medical services provided,” the senators wrote. “Some Wellpath contracts also appear to incentivize the company to reduce the number of transfers to hospitals or to employ fewer staff members.”

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

How Colman Domingo met his husband is the sweetest gay love story ever

Previous article

Marjorie Taylor Greene tried to attack a Democrat who called her dumb. It blew up in her face.

Next article