New Utah prison in ‘crisis’ as software keeps inmate drugs

SALT LAKE CITY — Problems transitioning to a new medical records system have forced thousands of inmates at Utah State Prison to go without medication, administrators told families Sunday.

“It corrupted a bunch of data that came in,” said Steve Turley, director of clinical services for the Utah Department of Corrections. “Some drugs have not migrated. Some drugs have been quadrupled.

Turley and UDC manager Brian Nielson spoke to families via Zoom on Sunday. In an anecdote describing the extent of the problem, Turley said the software “showed that most inmates were pregnant”.

“Obviously that’s not the case,” he said.

The software migration started on August 1st. This was about two weeks after inmates moved from the old Draper Jail to the new West Salt Lake City Penitentiary.

“The transition hasn’t gone as well as we had hoped,” Nielson said.

“It didn’t go as planned, and we take responsibility for that,” Turley said.

“We are working to resolve this crisis,” he added.

The briefing came after a Thursday report from FOX 13 News. In addition to medication delays, families have complained about prison staff failing to treat illnesses, lack of telephones and outdoor time in the new prison, and even mosquitoes from adjacent wetlands biting the prisoners when they go out.

READ: Families raise serious concerns six weeks after start of new billion-dollar state prison

On Sunday, prison staff only addressed medication issues and told families their incarcerated relatives must submit written requests if they wanted to be seen by a doctor. Families complained that their inmates were doing it.

“So I believe they didn’t give us any answers,” said Shelly Munster, whose husband recently arrived at the new prison. “I believe they went up [Zoom] and said the least they could.

Munster said her husband went about two weeks without medication for high blood pressure and mental health needs, but the issues went beyond prescriptions.

“He had a leg infection,” Munster said. “It took them 11 days from the day it started for it to be seen.”

Wendy Parmley, director of medical and mental health policy for the Utah Prisoner Advocate Network, said missing orders can impact security in the prison.

“An individual who is now hearing voices and placed in maximum security because he has not received and may still not have received his medication for mental health, for example,” she said.

Parmley said administrators shouldn’t have tried to implement a software change when transitioning to a new prison — at least not without redundant records.

“But there really was a problem in leadership and deployment,” Parmley said.

Nielson said Sunday that staff expected the recording migration to work. Workers printed many documents and entered information manually, but it was not efficient, he added.

Parmley wants the department to establish a command center to coordinate the writing of new prescriptions and the delivery of drugs. Next, she wants the department to use the contracts it already has with outside doctors and other health workers to increase prison staff.

“You’re definitely going to save money by spending a little money right now to do it right,” she said.

Turley said temporary pharmacy staff would arrive on Monday. What was 15,000 outstanding prescriptions has already been reduced to 4,000, he said.

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