Fulton extends contract with jail's medical provider amid allegations of medical neglect
Alabama-based medical provider NaphCare will continue providing physical and mental health services at the Fulton County Jail after commissioners voted unanimously to extend its contract.
Both NaphCare and the Fulton County Jail gained national attention this year after the case of 35-year-old Lashawn Thompson came to light. An independent autopsy found that Thompson died in 2022 in a bedbug-infested cell on the psychiatric floor due to what the review called “severe neglect.”
A lawsuit has not been filed in that case. But the June 7 vote by county commissioners calls for an additional $4.8 million so NaphCare can continue to provide physical and mental health services at the jail through the end of the year, plus 6% raises for employees and authorization to hire 13 more.
Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said NaphCare can still submit a bid for a new contract next year.
“I’m a big proponent of NaphCare,” Pitts said, “which the world knows.”
Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said it was the best option the sheriff’s office had to meet its goals.
“The concerns that have come to light in recent months have not magically gone away or been resolved, but we are making progress,” Labat said. “My intent remains to provide the best standard of care for inmates while also ensuring there are no gaps in service.”
According to federal court records, NaphCare has been sued for medical neglect over 100 times in the past three years.
Several cases involve Black men at the Fulton County Jail and other facilities throughout Georgia.
The family of 18-year-old Tyrique Tookes alleged in 2021 that he had been found dead in his cell after repeatedly complaining about chest pains. An autopsy later revealed Tookes died from an aortic aneurism – a bulge in a large artery connected to the heart.
That same year 26-year-old Deion Strayhon reportedly died from a bleeding intestinal ulcer at the nearby Gwinnett County Jail. While the facility cut ties with NaphCare shortly thereafter, Strayhon’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company in April.
Meanwhile, a federal appeals court judge said in June that NaphCare must also face a claim it committed medical malpractice when it conducted the jail intake of 32-year-old Antonio May in 2018.
A district court said last year there were too many intervening events to determine that the provider’s actions were the proximate cause of his death. But in an opinion by Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit said that a jury should now make that determination.
Separately, the Georgia Supreme Court is weighing an appeal that could lead to six Fulton County jailers facing murder charges for May’s death. According to the appeal, May was going through a mental health crisis when he was allegedly pepper sprayed, beaten and subjected to a stun gun while in custody.
The medical examiner’s report states May died of sudden cardiovascular collapse due to probable excited delirium with physical restraint use and acute methamphetamine intoxication. The manner of death is listed as undetermined.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed the appeal arguing that because the jailers are not “peace officers,” prosecutors were not required to give them notice of their indictment or the opportunity to testify before a grand jury – all reasons a trial court had previously quashed their indictments.
The Georgia Supreme Court has not reached a ruling.
Attorney Michael Harper is representing May and Thompson’s families separately. Neither he nor NaphCare responded to a request for comment.