Robert Gallagher said he spent 10 days in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Jail without needed medicine for depression and anxiety despite pleas to guards and nurses. The case of Gallagher, who settled a lawsuit against the county, helps paint a picture of poor communication within the jail and reluctance to provide some drugs, especially those viewed as habit-forming, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the second in a series of articles.
There’s nothing easy about administering medicine to a constantly changing population of around 2,600, said Dana Phillips of Allegheny Correctional Health Services. That nonprofit firm was created 10 years ago by the Health Department to provide jail medical care. “We tend to limit very carefully pain medication that might cause dependency, due to the high incidence of people with history of substance abuse,” Phillips said. Staff tries to verify inmate claims about their prescriptions before providing medicine, especially narcotics, and tries to stay away from drugs that might disqualify inmates from placement in a halfway house. Recent lawsuits allege that staff didn’t supply psychiatric medication, or failed to address narcotic addiction, resulting in inmate suicides.