BANGOR (AP) – The mother of a man who suffered brain damage during a suicide attempt at the Penobscot County Jail accused the county of dropping the charges against him to avoid the mounting health care costs.

County officials confirmed that charges including assault and robbery against Frederick E. Olsen III were dropped six days after he entered the hospital.

Olsen’s mother, Linda Richardson, 46, of Columbia Falls, described her 26-year-old son’s medical bills as “astronomical.” She said he had no insurance.

“I just want my son’s medical (needs) looked after,” Richardson said. “He was (in the jail) when it happened.”

I just don’t understand how they can relieve themselves of responsibility.”

Richardson plans to meet with a lawyer to discuss suing the county to win payment of her son’s medical bills.

Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross also has found himself wondering how to pay similar bills. He said the jail is dealing with more and more inmates who require medical and mental health attention.

“We’re getting hammered with these things,” Ross told Penobscot County commissioners last week. Ross said $215,000 of the $250,000 budgeted this year to cover medical costs, including dental care and surgery, has been spent. That doesn’t include Olsen’s bills.

Medical concerns are stretching other jail budgets as well. Hospitalized inmates require around-the-clock guards, usually two per 24-hour period, costing about $600 a day, not including benefits or overtime that could bring the daily total to $1,000.

Olsen is likely the most prominent inmate to require medical attention recently. He was found hanging from his cell door in the jail’s maximum security ward on Sept. 17.

Olsen required CPR at the jail. Then he was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center, where he was given a 3 percent chance of survival when he was admitted to intensive care, according to his mother.

On Thursday, Olsen was moved to a rehabilitation unit at the hospital, but his recovery is still uncertain, she said.

“His condition is still kind of touchy,” she said, referring to the doctors’ prognosis. “They’ve said it will be at least two years before we know how much (brain) damage was done, but (tests show) brain damage.”

Olsen is able to walk with assistance, but his speech is slurred and Richardson said her son sometimes is not aware of where he is or what happened to him. She said last week that her son will need extensive rehabilitation services and most likely never will completely recover.

Richardson said she faulted neither the sheriff nor jail employees for what happened to her son. She credited corrections officer Douglas Libby and emergency medical technicians from the Bangor Fire Department with saving his life.

She said the jail chaplain, the Rev. Robert Carlson, “has been here every day to pray with me and my son,” she said. “Glenn Ross has been here. He was devastated by what happened. These people have bent over backwards for us.”

She blames county commissioners for failing to adequately fund the jail so it had enough personnel to properly manage inmates like her son.

For now, she said the county would not be responsible for his medical bills unless he is arrested again.

The Penobscot County district attorney decided to drop the charges because “the defendant is incapable and unable to go to trial,” according to court documents dated Sept. 23.

In the meantime, Richardson, will remain at her son’s side. “I’m not giving up on my son,” she said.

AP-ES-10-07-03 0216EDT

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