Monday, March 31, 2008

Jail psychiatrist resigns

Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH -- The jail psychiatrist for Volusia County is resigning as the county evaluates whether to renew Prison Health Services contract amid concerns from community leaders over the treatment of inmates with mental illnesses.

Dr. David Hager has told Prison Health Services he's resigning from the national for-profit company contracted by the county to provide health care at the Volusia County Branch Jail since 2005. Officials Thursday didn't know when he will leave.

Hager could not be reached for comment. Prison Health Services' officials said he's been advised by his lawyers not to comment with lawsuits pending against Prison Health Services, Hager and Volusia County about the treatment of inmates.

Martha Harbin, a spokeswoman for Prison Health Services, said Hager is taking a job with another company out of state.

She said a new psychiatrist, who has experience in a correctional setting, has been identified and Hager agreed to work through a transition until that doctor is hired.

Hager and Prison Health Services have been criticized about inmates with mental illnesses not receiving the proper medication or no medication at all.

The Volusia County Council in February postponed a decision on whether to renew Prison Health Services contract that ends in September.

County officials have said the company has been providing "excellent service," but County Chairman Frank Bruno said he's still open to the idea of working with Act Corp. or another company providing the mental health portion of the contract. .

"I think (Hager resigning) presents an opportunity to explore a different approach in the delivery of services," said Deanna Schaeffer, chairwoman of the Flagler/Volusia Behavioral Health Consortium

Local mental health officials have been concerned with Hager evaluating some inmates for a period of time before deciding to give them psychotropic medication, regardless of their history. Harbin said Prison Health Services doesn't dictate to its doctors how to practice medicine, but Hager was operating within psychiatric guidelines, though she added "a different psychiatrist may have a different approach." She also said that Prison Health "revisited our policy" recently and if an inmate has a valid prescription they will continue it.

Dr. Stephen Young, forensic psychiatrist who evaluates inmates for the 7th Judicial Circuit, supports Hager reviewing inmates who come in positive with cocaine and other drugs since those drugs can cause psychosis. He said Hager is articulate, intelligent and "very passionate."

With a shortage of psychiatrists in the community, Young said "here we have a guy who is really smart and we are going to railroad him out of town."

But attorneys at the Public Defender's Office said they still have cases where clients, with documented mental illnesses, are not receiving their medication, which impacts how well attorneys can communicate with and defend their clients.

"We will wait and see if this turns a new page in mental health services at the jail," Public Defender James Purdy said about Hager's resignation.


Anonymous said...

First of all, if a patient is using substances, it will negate or decrease the effects of psychiatric medications. Second, it is not appropriate standand of care to evaluate the patient intoxicated or withdrawing from substances and give them an Axis I diagnosis other than: substance induced psychosis or substance induced mood disorder, ect..
Stabilize with psychotropics, yes. Treat the underlying depression while intoxicated/withdrawing, NO!
Good health care providers get told how to practice medicine by non-health care adminstrators! This is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...


No political heat/litigation before correctional work.

No political heat/litigation after correctional work.

Did the Dr. Hager change, or did his situation?