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Thursday, June 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Police: SW Idaho patient died as center staff skipped checks

NAMPA, Idaho – Authorities say a 27-year-old man found dead at a southwest Idaho state-run treatment center for people with severe disabilities had not been checked on for hours and died when his body position prevented him from breathing.

According to a report from the Canyon County Coroner’s Office, Drew Rinehart died Aug. 20 of positional asphyxia at the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center in Nampa, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported Monday.

The death has been under investigation for months, but the state has declined to release any details about the death.

According to the coroner’s report, which the newspaper obtained through a public record request, video shows that none of the staff checked on Rinehart for about six hours despite center records indicating a staff member checked on him every 30 minutes.

“Review of the video showed that even though the check sheet had been checked off and initialed, there were gaps between checks that were much longer than the 30 minutes,” Canyon County Deputy Coroner Steve Rhodes wrote in a report.

The center’s records also say Rinehart received medication at 8 a.m., though authorities say he likely had been dead for several hours by then.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said it can’t comment on the investigation.

Rhodes’ report says the video shows Rinehart entering his room at 7:45 p.m. on Aug. 19, and that workers were supposed to check on him every 30 minutes.

The report says that staff didn’t enter Rinehart’s room or check on him from 4:47 a.m. to 10:18 a.m. the following morning. A staffer didn’t physically enter the room until 11:29 a.m., when he was found dead. The report says Rinehart had been dead for six to seven hours.

The coroner report also says that Rinehart had socks loosely binding his wrists and ankles. But the report says the video shows the only person who could have placed the socks around his wrist and ankles was Rinehart, and they were not tight enough to have restrained him.

“My impression was that he had placed the bindings on himself,” Rhodes wrote.

The Nampa Police Department says it has sent its report to the Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney’s office. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials declined to comment on Tuesday, citing the law enforcement investigation.

The treatment center came under scrutiny earlier this year when six employees lost their jobs after an investigation concluded that some staffers physically and psychologically abused residents.

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