State prison officials and health care providers at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility are accused in a new lawsuit of failing to provide appropriate mental health care to a suicidal inmate, leading to his death at the prison in December.
The inmate’s mother, Trini Encinias, says in the complaint, filed Tuesday in the state District Court in Santa Fe, that her son Adonus Encinias hanged himself in his cell Dec. 8 after repeatedly pleading for help and attempting suicide at least twice.
It is at least the third lawsuit filed this month against the state Department of Corrections and Centurion Correctional Healthcare, a private firm the state contracts for $41 million a year to provide medical services in its 11 prisons.
The new suit says Adonus Encinias, in his early 20s, was using medications to treat mood disorders, such as depression. While he was incarcerated, medical staff changed his treatment regimen to include medications for chronic anxiety, seizures, insomnia and other mental and physical ailments, the suit says, and Encinias’ mental health began to deteriorate.
The complaint lays out a litany of instances in which Encinias asked for help, including a request to be enrolled in the prison’s substance abuse program. But, the suit alleges, that request was denied.
He told behavioral health staff at the prison that he was “really depressed and had a lot of emotional issues, no precautions were taken” to prevent him from attempting suicide, according to the complaint.
It cites two incidents, in May and in August, in which he made suicide attempts.
Health care providers at the prison “should have known or knew and should have trained its agents and employees to care for such patients at chronic risk of suicide,” the suit says.
The suit, alleging negligence, medical malpractice and wrongful death, names as defendants the prison and its warden, Ken Smith; the Corrections Department; the department’s Behavioral Health Bureau chief, Wendy Price; acting Corrections Secretary Anthony Romero; Centurion; MHM Health Professionals Inc., a division of Centurion; and other officials and employees affiliated with the prison.
The Corrections Department remains without a Cabinet secretary after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s appointee for the position, former Florida corrections chief Julie Jones, withdrew her candidacy in February.
Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for Lujan Grisham, said in an email Wednesday that the state cannot comment on pending litigation.
Officials from Centurion did not respond to an email requesting comment.
The suit seeks monetary damages.
The state awarded Centurion its prison health care contract in May 2016 following a New Mexican report a month earlier on the firm’s predecessor, Corizon Health Inc., which had faced about 15o lawsuits alleging delayed, denied or substandard medical care in the nine years it held the contract.
Since Centurion began operating in the state, it has faced at least 30 lawsuits filed by inmates or the estates of deceased inmates.