SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- The death of a 47-year-old man in Santa Cruz County Jail last week has shed some light on care for inmates withdrawing from drug abuse.
Brant Monnett, a tattoo artist from Santa Cruz, died in the jail Nov. 20, authorities said. Although the Santa Cruz County Coroner's Office has not released his cause of death, Monnett was recovering from drug use and was in a detoxification cell. He was found unresponsive, given CPR and declared dead.
Although Monnett is the third person to die in the jail since August and the second death since the jail's medical staff was privatized in September, jail leaders said care has improved in recent months.
On Oct. 6, a 57-year-old man died of a cardiovascular disease while he was being booked at the jail. In August, a 27-year-old woman died after liver, lung and other problems related to intravenous heroin abuse.
Since California Forensic Medical Group was hired to run the County Jail's medical services in September, a physician assistant has been added to the Main Jail staff on weekdays, said Lt. Shea Johnson.
There is typically a physician and nurses on duty and roughly the same number of medical staff at the jail. Johnson said one change has been the addition of support staff to do paperwork so that nurses have more time to care for patients.
Johnson credited medical staff for finding Monnett unresponsive and caring for him
"We get a lot of (medical) coverage throughout the night," Johnson said. "The program manager was there right away."
Susie Monnett, Brant's stepmother in Redding, said Tuesday that jail staff was preparing a report for them.
"Naturally we want to make sure that everything was taken care of in the way that it should have been," Susie Monnett said Tuesday.
"We got the news on Thanksgiving morning. Needless to say, it wasn't a good time."
Santa Cruz police said Monnett had struggled with drug problems for years. He has a daughter in Oregon and many of his family members live in Redding, said Susie Monnett.
He attended San Joaquin Delta College and Blue Ridge High School in Morgan Hill.
"It has been really whirlwind the past few days," Susie Monnett said. "It was a shocker."
This week, authorities discussed his path to jail.
Monnett was arrested about 9:30 p.m. Nov. 18 on Soquel Avenue.
Police received a report that someone was loitering and possibly doing drugs near a building on Soquel, said Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark.
An officer arrived and found Monnett cutting the bottom off an aluminum can to make a "cooker" to prepare and inject heroin, police said. An officer ordered him to take his hands out of his pockets -- which is routine to protect against weapons -- but he refused, Clark said.
An officer chased him and they fought. Monnett had a syringe on him.
Monnett was arrested on suspicion of heroin possession, resisting arrest and a probation violation, according to police. Police often take arrestees to the hospital before they are booked into County Jail if they have open cuts, head injuries or are unconscious, said Clark.
Monnett's injuries were not severe enough to merit a trip to the hospital, police said.
During booking, each inmate also is medically evaluated and sometimes sent to a hospital before they enter jail. Recently, many Santa Cruz police have noticed that Main Jail staff have had a more "cautious approach" to suspects they will accept -- likely because of potential legal liability.
"If the (jail) staff is at all wary, they turn us right around," Clark said.
In Monnett's case, a nurse gave him a preliminary assessment, which included questions about his drug use, Johnson said.
The nurse typically asks a patients what kind of drugs they have used, how much, how often and how recently they used them, Johnson said. Their blood pressure is measured and they are tested for tuberculosis and other problems.
The staff determined that he had used drugs and he was seen by a physician. He was put on a "detox protocol," which includes checks from medical staff.
Two days later, about 6 p.m. Nov. 20, a jail staff member found Monnett unresponsive in his bunk bed.
Staff performed CPR on him and were later relieved by Santa Cruz firefighters and American Medical Response paramedics. Monnett was declared dead about 6:40 p.m.
The coroner is awaiting toxicology results before they release the results of an autopsy.
Copyright 2012 - Santa Cruz Sentinel, Calif.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service