Thursday, June 13, 2002

Man's death at mental-health clinic investigated

By Jim Hannah,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Police are investigating the death of an 18-year-old man with family in Northern Kentucky who was being treated at a mental-health clinic in Louisville.

        Shawn Smith of Brooksville died early Saturday after being taken to a Louisville-area hospital for a possible drug overdose. Mr. Smith was in state custody and living with a foster family in Louisville.

        “We just want to bury him with answers,” said Mr. Smith's uncle, Jason Marlow, 29, of Fort Wright. “He was so sedated he couldn't wake up. We want some answers.”

        Mr. Marlow said Mr. Smith spoke to his mother Friday, the young man's birthday, about coming to live with her in Cold Spring.

        Jefferson County Deputy Coroner Rick Siclari said his office thinks Mr. Smith died of a drug overdose. He said their investigation determined Mr. Smith ingested methadone, something he was not prescribed, before being given an additional drug by the clinic's staff.

        Mr. Siclari said Mr. Smith was not being treated for a disorder that would have called for methadone. Mr. Marlow said foster parents took Mr. Smith to Ten Broeck Hospital mental-health clinic after the 18-year-old cut his arms.

        Methadone is a highly addictive synthetic narcotic, regulated by the state and federal government. It is used to treat chronic drug addiction to opiates such as heroin and pain pills such as OxyContin.

        Mr. Siclari said the clinic's staff knew Mr. Smith had taken methadone before administering the additional drug and that the coroner's office is awaiting toxicology results to determine if the additional drug contributed to an overdose.

        Ten Broeck officials told authorities that they do not keep methadone at the clinic, Mr. Siclari said.

        Police are investigating when and where Mr. Smith received methadone, he said. Jefferson County Police did not return a phone call Wednesday afternoon.

        “I can tell you that I'm confident the staff at Ten Broeck followed all protocols and all state and federal guidelines,” said John Hollinsworth, executive administrator for Ten Broeck. “We are not a methadone clinic of any kind. We do not distribute methadone or treat patients on methadone.”

        Mr. Hollinsworth declined to comment on what condition Mr. Smith was being treated for, citing patient confidentiality.

        Ten Broeck is a privately run mental health and addiction hospital with two campuses in Louisville.

       Enquirer reporter Kristina Goetz contributed to this story.


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