County Jail Grievances Drop, Response and Treatment Rates Rise

Santa Barbara Independent

By Nick Welsh

The number of grievances filed by inmates at County Jail because of the medical treatment they’ve received has dropped dramatically in the past year while the number of inmates seeking medical treatment has gone significantly up. Accounting for this dramatic turnaround is a combination of factors: The jail has a new medical treatment provider ​— ​CFMG ​ (California Forensic Medical Group) — ​which is now entering its second year. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office is entering its second year of operating a more formalized grievance process, run by a 32-year veteran of jailhouse operations, Lt. Mark Mahurin, who has won major praise by mental-health activists who in the past were among the jail’s most relentless critics.

“It’s really quite remarkable,” said Suzanne Riordan of Families Act!, which has watchdogged mental-health care at the jail for more than 10 years. “We call Mark or Lt. Shawn Lammer with a complaint, and they’re inside the jail cell almost immediately checking it out. We still have problems. They just get resolved a lot faster now.” Families Act! helped get the new grievance program started a few years ago when they released a dossier of medical horror stories from the jail.

In the first three months of 2018, the jail received a total of 477 grievances, of which 87 were related to dental care, mental health, medications, or general medical care. In the first three months of the prior year, there were 520 total complaints, of which 138 related to health-care concerns. In the first quarter of 2018, 2,244 inmates sought medical treatment; the first quarter of the prior year, the number was 1,852.

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