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Lake County sheriff cleared in lawsuit brought by inmate

Updated: February 27, 2013 6:17AM



CROWN POINT — Claims have been dismissed against Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, the sheriff’s department and the jail administrator in a case alleging improper medical treatment of an inmate.

In a summary judgment issued Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Cherry found the plaintiff Kwasi Mitchell did not provide evidence to substantiate his allegations against the three parties that they failed to provide access to adequate medical treatment while he was an inmate in 2009, according to court documents.

The case will continue against Med-Staff Inc., the jail’s medical provider at the time of the allegations. A pretrial conference is scheduled Feb. 15 with a jury trial slated to begin March 11.

Med-Staff Inc. was replaced by Correctional Health Indiana in January 2012, said John Bushemi, attorney for the sheriff.

Bushemi said the ruling is significant because the court found the jail staff and sheriff’s department provided adequate and timely medical care for this inmate.

“The focus of Sheriff Buncich has been … to make substantial improvements in the quality of medical care for inmates. The dismissal being generated in this particular case is a vindication of the good quality of medical care provided,” Bushemi said.

Mitchell, who was addicted to heroine and Xanax, claimed in his suit he was denied access to proper medical care while suffering from seizures and other medical issues after he was incarcerated, according to court documents. He provided no evidence to substantiate the claims. The sheriff’s department countered with documentation showing dates and times and what type of care was provided, the documents show.

Buncich said he has made drastic improvements in the medical and mental health care being provided to inmates and that included removing Med-Staff Inc. as the medical provider as soon as possible.

“(The ruling) is indicative of that. Med-Staff is left to hold the bag on this thing,” Buncich said.

He said the jail was taken out of noncompliance by Department of Justice inspectors on their last visit. Work is under way to meet some of the final DOJ requirements including getting an infirmary in place in the fourth ward and relocating the mental health ward to a larger area.



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