An Ohio inmate died from dehydration after jailers ignored his symptoms as he suffered from heroin withdrawal, according to a new lawsuit filed by the man's family.
Jason Pittman was arrested Sept. 13 on a probation violation, and he tested positive for marijuana and opiates when he was booked into the Warren County Jail, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The 25-year-old Pittman frequently vomited at the jail and was unable to keep down water when it was provided to him, the lawsuit alleges.
The suit claims medical workers determined Pittman was suffering from moderately severe withdrawal from opiates, but another inmate who had been through withdrawal himself reported that he had never seen such serious symptoms.
Law enforcement officials are deeply familiar with the effects of heroin in the Cincinnati area -- where court dockets, jails and hospitals swell with addiction-related crime and medical emergencies.
Ohio had the second-most heroin overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2014, with 2,744, and nearby Kentucky was among the five worst with more than 1,000 overdoses.
A suburban city official from northern Kentucky rode along with one of those patrols, which made four heroin-related stops along a three-mile stretch of interstate in about five hours -- including a woman who was actively injecting the drug while driving.
The lawsuit claims Pittman became disoriented at the jail and was unable to stand at times, and anti-nausea medication administered by the medical staff did nothing to alleviate his symptoms.
Pittman, who was never given intravenous fluids, died Sept. 17 after losing 16 pounds in three and a half days, according to the lawsuit.
An autopsy found his death was caused by dehydration.
"Jason is another victim of heroin, which challenges many families in our area. Proper steps to treat withdrawal are well known," said Al Gerhardstein, the family's attorney. "Failure to take those steps made his death foreseeable and preventable. His two children deserved better care for their dad."
The civil rights and wrongful lawsuit names Warren County, Correctional Healthcare Companies, jail medical director Dr. Mohammed Baig and other employees of the jail.
Pittman's uncle, a Warren County trustee, said the death is part of a national epidemic of inadequate care for drug-addicted inmates.
A 2010 study found that only 11 percent of substance abusers receive any type of professional treatment while jailed, and fewer than 1 percent are given medical assistance as their bodies detoxify.