Lawsuit: Addicted to opioids, she sought help. She was arrested, then ended up dead

Last month, I relayed the obituary of Maddy Lisenmeier, whose family wrote about her addiction to opioids in a heartbreaking way.

If you are reading this with judgment, educate yourself about this disease, because that is what it is. It is not a choice or a weakness. And chances are very good that someone you know is struggling with it, and that person needs and deserves your empathy and support.

If you work in one of the many institutions through which addicts often pass — rehabs, hospitals, jails, courts — and treat them with the compassion and respect they deserve, thank you. If instead you see a junkie or thief or liar in front of you rather than a human being in need of help, consider a new profession.

We know a little more about her death now, and also about that last paragraph. She died in police custody. Her arrest reveals one of the difficulties people who are addicted have asking for help.

“I need to go to the hospital I am dying I weigh 90 pounds mom I need you,” she wrote in a text to her mother.

There was a problem, though. The hospital checks for warrants, she feared, and Maddie had several of them.

Sure enough, she was arrested and jailed on the warrants, according to a suit the family has filed against the Springfield, Vt. Mass. police department, the Boston Globe reports. (note: it is unclear whether she ever actually went to the hospital. In a series of text messages with her, her mother begged her to go to the hospital and at one point Maddy said she would.)

Shortly after her arrest, Linsenmeir was allowed to call her mother. During the call, she was distraught and said she was not receiving medical attention, according to a statement from attorneys representing her relatives.

During the phone conversation, “a police officer on the line refused to provide medical attention and even made a sarcastic comment after Linsenmeir’s mother reiterated that her daughter needed care,” according to a statement from the family’s lawyers.

Linsenmeir was later transferred to the custody of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department. On Oct. 4, she was rushed to the Baystate Medical Center and admitted to an intensive care unit. Within a day, she was intubated and sedated. Days later, she died.

“We know she was refused medical attention upon booking and was rushed to the hospital five days later but are left to draw our own conclusions about what occurred in between,” the family said in a statement. “We have a right to know what happened to our daughter and sister while she was in the care of the SPD and call on them to release the public records we have requested.”

Related: An old Minnesota jail is now a leader for inmate mental health (MPR News)