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Attorney: Father of teen plans wrongful death complaint against Taos health center

The Santa Fe New Mexican - 9/18/2023

Sep. 18—The father of a 17-year-old boy who died in 2021 while in the care of a federally funded behavioral health treatment center in Taos filed a wrongful death complaint in federal court, accusing the center's staff and Taos Pueblo Tribal Police of failing to provide timely and appropriate medical treatment to the child.

The complaint — filed Sept. 11 by James Saul of Albuquerque — names Butterfly Healing Center, Taos Pueblo Tribal Police, the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council and the U.S. government as defendants.

Saul's attorney, Jordan Winter, filed a notice withdrawing the complaint Monday, but said in a phone interview she did so only because rules for suing the federal government require her to exhaust administrative remedies, in part by giving the government six months to issue a denial of her client's claim before filing a lawsuit.

Winter said she intends to refile the complaint when the six months have elapsed.

Saul's attorneys contend in the complaint Maddux Saul of Albuquerque was readmitted to the center Sept. 10, 2021, after being granted leave to attend his grandmother's funeral and was found unresponsive, with a weak pulse and gasping for breath around 1 a.m. the next day.

Staff members called 911 but provided no other life saving measures, according to the complaint.

The boy was in cardiac arrest, according to the complaint.

Two officers with the Taos Pueblo Tribal Police Department responded and administered Narcan — an opioid overdose medication — to the child. The medication was unsuccessful in reviving him, according to the complaint.

Emergency medical personnel arrived on scene and administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the teenager for the first time around 1:20 a.m., the complaint says. He subsequently was taken to the Holy Cross Hospital, which requested he be flown to Colorado Children's Hospital near Denver, the lawsuit adds.

However, the boy died mid-flight and was pronounced dead at 9:55 a.m. According to the complaint, a urinalysis revealed there were no drugs in his system and his cause of death was "undetermined," though the complaint does not specify who made the ruling.

The complaint accuses the Butterfly Healing Center of negligence and accuses the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council of breach of contract. It also accuses Taos Pueblo Tribal Police of professional malpractice.

It seeks an unspecified amount of damages for funeral costs, mental anguish and loss of consortium.

Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council contracts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Butterfly Healing Center to provide residential therapeutic services and treatment, according to the complaint.

Butterfly Healing Center is not accepting new patients at this time, according to its website. Center administrators did not respond to a message seeking comment Monday. Tribal officials did not respond to a voicemail and email.


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