SANTA FE, N.M. — In the face of a possible lawsuit, Santa Fe County is being circumspect about what it can say about an internal investigation into the apparent heroin overdose death of a teenager at a local hospital last week, after she was earlier incarcerated at a county youth detention facility.
Desiree Gonzales, 17, died at Christus St. Vincent’s Regional Medical Center in the early morning hours on Thursday. A Santa Fe police report said an officer was told by hospital staff in the early a.m. “that Ms. Gonzales was in unstable condition and the incident did not appear to be survivable.”
She was pronounced dead at about 3:25 a.m. Gonzales’ father Waldo Anaya, alluded to possible legal action when he spoke with the Journal on Friday.
On Monday, county spokeswoman Kristine Mihelcic said while she “can’t discuss the details of the investigation” generally it would look at “overall policies and procedures” at the juvenile detention center. The investigation could take a week to 10 days, she said.
Police were called to an apartment on Zepol Road in Santa Fe on Wednesday night after a report that Gonzales was over-dosing on heroin. She was transported by ambulance to the hospital and admitted at 8:19 p.m. and released by hospital staff at 10 p.m., a police report states.
An officer determined that there was a juvenile warrant for her arrest on a probation violation. Another officer “spoke with on-call Juvenile Probation Officer Andrea Sandoval who authorized incarceration,” said the report.
Juvenile detention Center Corrections Officer Matthew Edmunds later told police that when Gonzales was booked into the facility at about 10:35 p.m. she seemed “out of it” but was still responsive and called her mother, the report said. Edmunds said that Gonzales went to sleep at about 11 p.m. but “appeared to be having breathing difficulties so he kept checking on her” and “a couple of hours later, he went to check on her and she was unresponsive and found not to be breathing,” states the report.
She was taken back to the hospital by paramedics at about 2:20 a.m.
St. Vincent’s spokesman Arturo Delgado said Monday he could not comment specifically on whether the Gonzales death would prompt a review of hospital procedures.
“It’s definitely a tragedy for the community,” he said. “What we are open to is working with and having a dialogue with the city, the state and the community on how we can address the chronic issue of drug abuse that we are seeing.”
Santa Fe attorney Steven Farber, who is not representing the Gonzales’ family but regularly represents people with complaints about law enforcement, said police could have refused to transport Gonzales and the detention center could have legally refused to admit her if there were questions over her condition, under the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.
Anaya, Gonzales’ father, said on Monday that a Facebook donation page had raised about $1,700 towards funeral expenses and a separate donation of $700 had also been received.