Oregon Youth Authority Settles 2 Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The Oregon Youth Authority recently announced the settlement of two wrongful death lawsuits filed by the grieving parents of two youths who died under their supervision. One of the youths died of an overdose death while the other took his own life. The lawsuits were settled for a reported $2.6 million. The lawsuit has also resulted in policy changes that would hopefully prevent future incidents such as these from occurring again.
The agency announced that staffers will be trained on the use of naloxone, an opioid antagonist which can stop an overdose. Today, it is more common for schools to be required to have naloxone on hand after overdose deaths were reported in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
At the time of the overdose death, the facility did not have a policy on providing naloxone to youths under their care.
Further, there will be policy changes concerning the oversight of suicidal youth, including reforms and training.
The allegations provided by the family were more extensive than “my son died of fentanyl while under your care.” In this case, the boy was not a drug user prior to entering the facility, and the facility was blamed for ignoring widespread drug use. In other words, the parents successfully claimed that the facility was the cause of the boy’s death as opposed to simply allowing it to happen.
Again, the allegations are much more severe than “my son took his own life on your watch.” In this case, the boy was on suicide watch when a staffer allowed him off the grounds. His body was found in a nearby river.
In both cases, we’re talking about residential mental health facilities that allow suicidal patients to wander off the grounds and expose teenagers to dangerous narcotics. It is a complete failure to provide the needed care these children need that is at issue in these lawsuits.
Not every residential treatment facility will be able to stop 100% of suicides and overdoses. While it’s easy to think that the parents are going after money, the quality of care in these cases was outright defective and would have inevitably led to the deaths of several patients had there not been an immediate intervention. As it stands, it took two deaths to get someone to care and make the necessary changes. Ultimately, this is a failure of our society to care enough about vulnerable castaway youths.
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