Sept. 22, 2017
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Anson Stevens-Bollen

County Seeks New Jail Psychiatrist

The outgoing doctor cites difficult working conditions for his resignation.

September 23, 2016, 3:45 pm

Santa Fe County is accepting applications for a new psychiatrist to perform diagnoses and prescribe medication at Adult Detention Facility, a government-run jail that serves a large swath of northern New Mexico.

Dr. Luigi Dulanto, the previous psychiatrist, resigned on Sept. 8, citing challenging working conditions.

“Working in the corrections environment is difficult because of the population,” Dulanto tells SFR. “Inmates are very difficult to deal with. There are a lot of addiction problems in the jail. It is difficult to provide adequate service.”

“Many inmates want to get high on the medication I was prescribing,” he adds. “It was very upsetting.”

Dulanto says he plans to focus on his private practice in Santa Fe, as well as service he provides once a month at La Clinica Del Pueblo in Tierra Amarilla.

Whoever takes his place will be well compensated. With an annual salary of $281,379, Dulanto earned more than any other county employee. To put that into perspective, the jail psychiatrist brings in nearly three times as much as the warden, Mark Caldwell. County Manager Katherine Miller, the next highest paid county employee, earns $177,927 a year.

For the time being, an internal medicine doctor will handle inmates’ psych medications, according to Dr. Merrit Ayad, director of mental health for the county corrections department. The county is working on finding an interim psychiatrist until a permanent one is hired.

“It’s not ideal,” Ayad says. “We’re making one guy do another guy’s work. But we’re not falling apart. Inmates are still being cared for.”

Adult Detention Facility houses a max inmate population of about 660. Approximately 67 percent of those incarcerated at the jail have mental illness, while about 90 percent have substance abuse issues, according to Ayad.

Dulanto's resignation comes amid a push by county officials to improve mental health services in the region. A November ballot question asks voters to spend millions of public dollars to fund a mental health crisis center with an explicit goal of connecting people to services, rather than the criminal justice system.

Santa Fe County created the position of jail psychiatrist as a condition of a 2004 agreement between the county and the Department of Justice. Civil rights investigators examined the quality of healthcare at the facility after the death of Tyson Johnson, an inmate who expressed suicidal ideation before guards found him hanging from a sprinkler head. At the time of Johnson’s death, Management and Training Corporation, a private company, ran the jail.

In addition to a psychiatrist, the county corrections department also employs six therapists, four registered nurses, four licensed practical nurses and a special coordinator who oversees compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Santa Fe County posted the job on its website on Sept. 22. The posting closes on Sept. 30.


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