Former El Paso County Jail healthcare provider sued by family of teenager who died in custody in 2022

Courtesy U.S. District Court of Colorado
Dezaree Archuleta (left) appears with her mother, Shelly Romero in a photo included in the family’s lawsuit against former El Paso County Jail healthcare provider, Wellpath LLC.

The family of an 18-year-old El Paso County Jail inmate who died by suicide in 2022 is suing the former healthcare company responsible for her care. 

The civil lawsuit, filed in federal court Monday against the jail healthcare contractor, Wellpath LLC, argues Dezaree Archuleta had repeatedly expressed her suicidal ideations in the days leading up to her death, including multiple incidents of self-harm. According to the suit, the health providers overseeing her “callously ignored” these signs.

“Had Wellpath officials showed even the slightest concern for human life, Ms. Archuleta would still be alive today,” the lawsuit reads.

Monday’s filing comes two months after the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office settled potential lawsuits with the Archuleta family for $1 million. The sheriff’s office said in a statement that it hoped the funds would allow “the family to further heal from this loss.”

Archuleta was booked into the jail on or about May 17, 2022. According to court records, she told Wellpath staff she was having thoughts of killing herself during her intake process and had previously attempted suicide. Wellpath officials noted these and other increasingly extreme signs during her 23-day incarceration. 

If you or someone you know is considering suicide or other acts of self-harm, please contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 1-844-493-8255 or texting “TALK” to 38255 for free, confidential, and immediate support.

Additionally, Archuleta “reported having auditory and visual hallucinations” during her confinement, requesting she be seen by a psychiatrist so she could receive medication she had previously taken. The lawsuit alleges Wellpath staff declined the request to see a psychiatrist and repeatedly removed her from suicide watch in the days leading up to her hanging herself from a metal grate in her cell on June 9, 2022. 

The suit states more than 15 inmates died at the jail during Wellpath’s three-year tenure as its healthcare provider. The sheriff’s office switched to VitalCore Health Strategies for services at the jail at the beginning of 2024. 

Sheriff Joy Roybal said in a statement the majority of inmates have undertreated or undiagnosed medical conditions, from mental health issues to addiction. 

“It was vital for us to find a medical provider who had the experience and capability to address these unique needs and adapt to our rapidly changing population,” Roybal said. 

Wellpath LLC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. The suit seeks financial compensation from Wellpath, as well as written apologies, policy changes at the company and mandatory training for staff.