Untreated and Negligently Treated Diabetes in New Mexico Prisons

Something we should all be concerned about

Most folks don’t give prison healthcare much thought. They should. The costs of poor prison healthcare as remote as it sounds, affects all of us and our communities.

Prisoners have all the same health issues as the rest of us. However, the health issues that prisoners have quickly get out of control for lack of treatment, management or basic medical care. One health issue that is routinely neglected is diabetes.

For those that are not familiar with the progression of unmanaged, untreated or negligently treated diabetes, suffice it to say that it’s pretty awful. A quick google search will illustrate this fact. A few of the basic facts are laid out below to illustrate it more fully.

Costs to New Mexico Taxpayers

This section properly belongs at the end of the article. However, as a matter of public interest, I have put it at the beginning.

The costs of diabetes to the U.S. healthcare system on the whole was $327 billion in 2017. That is an increase over $245 billion reported for 2012. That is a 33% increase in only 5 years. Diabetes is an epidemic in the U.S. and appears to be growing dramatically over time.

The costs of unmanaged, untreated or negligently treated diabetes in prisons unnecessarily amplifies these costs. Folks might ask why should they care? If not for the inhumanity of deliberate neglect of prison diabetes for profit, one might reasonably be concerned with the fact that almost all prisoners are eventually released from prison at which time New Mexico Medicaid will kick in. This means New Mexico taxpayers inevitably bear the extraordinary costs of untreated diabetes once a prisoner is released.

It gets worse. New Mexico taxpayers already bear the costs of enormous prison medical care contracts with private contractors. Taxpayer money is simply being transferred to private contractors who in turn grossly neglect the medical care of New Mexico inmates, which includes routine neglect of diabetes.

In short, all New Mexicans should be concerned about untreated, unmanaged or negligently treated prison diabetes. It affects us all in one way or another including our wallets.

Health Consequences of Untreated Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease. It does not get better on its own. It requires ongoing, consistent and competent medical care. When such care is not provided, diabetes leads to horrible and permanent consequences including heart disease, organ failure, neurological damage, blindness and last but not lease, amputations.

As a society and as the people of New Mexico, we have to ask our leaders if those convicted of crimes should face the ancillary consequences of poor medical care. Does someone convicted up drug possession deserve blindness, loss of leg, neurological damage, death? We all know the answer to this question. The real question is what do we do about it.

Population Wide Diabetes Statistics

The CDC estimates that as of 2015, there were over 30 million Americans suffering from diabetes, 7 million of which had not known or reported having the disease.

This equates to more than 7% of the total population. For New Mexico, the numbers are far worse as evidenced by the higher rates for Hispanics (13%). Hispanics represent 47% of the New Mexico Population suggesting that New Mexico’s diabetes problem should be worse than the national average. Indeed, it is with 10.4% of the New Mexico population being diagnosed with diabetes. American Indians and Blacks also had a higher rate at 20.3% and 16.2% respectively.

When looking at the significantly higher rates of diabetes among Hispanics, American Indians and Blacks and in consideration that they are incarcerated at far higher rates than other segments of the population, would might also expect that the rates of diabetes in prisons is even higher.

Prevalence of Diabetes in Prisons

Although both blacks and American Indians represent small portions of the New Mexico population, 2% and less than 10% respectively, they are incarcerated at far higher rates than whites so they too add to the prison diabetes problem. The same holds true for both Hispanics and American Indians.

This suggests that the rates of diabetes in New Mexico prisons will be high as well. The statistics here are harder to decipher. The overall rate of diabetes for prisoners nationwide is right around 5%. This seems like good news but the number is misleading. Only 19% or so of prisoners in the U.S. are below 51 years of age. The risk of diabetes goes up with age so the rate when adjusted for age is much higher. Unfortunately, we did not find a breakdown by age in prisons.

What to Do?

The first thing we can do is contact our legislators and encourage them to hold prison health care contractors responsible for the high costs they shed on to the public. The second thing applies to prisoners whose diabetes is being neglected and the families of those prisoners.

Collins & Collins, P.C. is doing our best to do our part in addressing the issue, admittedly a little late on the intake. Our firm has received numerous calls regarding the neglect of diabetes in New Mexico prisons. We have been getting these for the last couple of years. Unfortunately, we did not tie the neglect of diabetes to other extremely serious health conditions. We only made that connect after taking on numerous cases of spinal infections, spinal osteomyelitis and spinal sepsis. A theme running through a number of these is that the prisoner also suffered diabetes which can severely compromise the immune system.

Let us just say, prison diabetes has our attention now above and beyond the diabetes cases involving amputations that we have been investigating for quite some time.

Unfortunately, the prisoners that most need to see this article and others like it do not have access. Nor will they be provided with information on their legal rights to proper medical care of diabetes. It is left to the family and other loved ones on the outside to take action.

Collins & Collins, P.C. will review your loved one’s medical situation free of charge. If there is a case, the firm proceeds on contingency meaning that neither the prisoner nor the family pays any legal fees unless there is compensation for the harm done by the New Mexico prison system and its contractors. Give us a call.

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