Mom sues Denver, three workers over child’s death
Denver Post, 8/11/11
By Allison Sherry
The Denver Post
A Denver mother whose son died after she was unable to fill his multiple prescriptions because pharmacists kept telling her he was not eligible for Medicaid — even though records proved he was — has filed a lawsuit against the city and county of Denver.
Zuton Lucero-Mills said she called Denver County Human Services several times a week in the spring and summer of 2009 after she tried to get 9-year-old son Zumante's asthma medications at Walgreens and was told he wasn't eligible for Medicaid.
No one resolved the computer glitch. Most of Lucero-Mills' calls weren't returned.
Her son's asthma worsened after several months of being off the anti-inflammatory drug Advair, which kept the disease manageable.
The boy died in July 2009. He fainted at his home after telling his mother he couldn't breathe and then died a few days later at Children's Hospital when he was taken off a ventilator.
State investigators later found the boy died of complications from his condition, which was covered by a state health plan that should have paid for the prescription medication he needed.
"I want this not to be the story of anyone else's family," Lucero-Mills said. "Something has to change."
The suit against Denver seeks monetary damages and relief for her emotional loss and grief. The city fixed Zumante's eligibility status to pay for his funeral, according to court documents.
Three then-employees of Denver County Human Services are named in the lawsuit, in addition to the county. Holly Lumpkin was Zumante's caseworker, and Lumpkin's supervisors, Teresa Long and Annette Williams, also were named.
Lucero-Mills repeatedly tried to fill prescriptions at Walgreens.
The county automatically generated paperwork after her continual calls and sent it to the family's home. It verified Zumante qualified for Medicaid — yet pharmacists said he wasn't in the system.
"Can it really be acceptable
Zumante Lucero's asthma worsened after he was off his prescriptions for months. He was hospitalized in 2009 because he couldn't breathe and died days later.
that in government, no one answers the phone?" said John Holland, one of Lucero-Mills' attorneys. "Who is responsible for nothing happening? Is it nobody? Is it God? Is it a computer? Or is it the people who didn't act?"
At the time The Denver Post published the first story of Lucero-Mills' loss, Denver County Human Services called it a "tragedy" and ordered a review of call-center responsiveness.
On Wednesday, Human Services declined to comment on the pending litigation, citing department policy.
Lucero-Mills, who has gone to grief counseling with her mother and Zumante's brothers and sisters, said she has tried to keep the tragedy fresh to fight for change.
"I think we need to have changes at every level — changes in the computer system, changes in the people that are behind those computers," she said. "As long as I feel like there is more to do, I'll do it."