Canyon County

Man who died at state-run center was left alone for hours despite required checks

Outside of the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center in Nampa.
Outside of the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center in Nampa. adutton@idahostatesman.com

Drew Rinehart died in the early morning hours of Aug. 22, with his hands and feet loosely bound and his face against a pillow. It took several hours for someone at the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center to find his body, despite an order to check on Rinehart every 30 minutes, according to a coroner’s report.

Rinehart’s death has been under investigation for months. The state has declined to comment, provide information or release records about his death and the details surrounding it.

But the report written by Canyon County Deputy Coroner Steve Rhodes reveals new information. Details in the report suggest that staff at SWITC — a state-run treatment center in Nampa — may have falsified records about the hours leading up to Rinehart’s death by asphyxiation.

The Idaho Press-Tribune first reported on the coroner’s findings.

Rinehart’s body was discovered at 11:29 a.m., according to the report.

“I entered the room and observed the body of a fully dressed adult male lying on his back on a twin size bed,” the coroner’s report said. “The bedding was off and piled up on the right side of the bed.” Nearby were socks tied into loops — makeshift ligatures that SWITC staff removed from Rinehart’s hands and feet after they found him.

The socks couldn’t have been tight enough to keep Rinehart restrained, Rhodes wrote. “My impression was that he had placed the bindings on himself,” wrote the deputy coroner.

Nampa police officers who responded to the scene were concerned that maybe another SWITC resident had gotten into Rinehart’s room and tied him up. So they started watching video recordings from the hallway outside his room. They saw Rinehart go into the room at 7:45 p.m. the night before he died.

Records showed that SWITC staff were supposed to check on Rinehart every 30 minutes, according to the report. Though the bed-check sheet had been checked off and initialed by SWITC staff, “there were gaps between checks that were much longer than the 30 minutes,” the report said.

The staff’s paperwork also said someone had given Rinehart his morning medications at 8 a.m. the morning he died. But the video showed otherwise: No one entered his room between 4:47 a.m. and when his body was discovered.

SWITC is a sprawling campus in Nampa with about 25 residents cared for by about 100 workers. The center provides assessment, training and treatment to people with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses. The goal is to help them transition into living in their communities.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, which operates the center, declined to comment Tuesday due to Rinehart’s death being part of a pending law enforcement investigation.

Nampa police have told the Statesman that Rinehart’s case — and several others regarding complaints of abuse and mistreatment of SWITC residents — have been forwarded on to the county prosecutor’s office.

Rinehart’s death happened within weeks of Health and Welfare’s investigation of complaints of psychological and physical abuse of seven adult residents at SWITC. Six employees resigned or were fired after the department’s investigation found psychological abuse that included bullying and insulting residents, as well as physical abuse.

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @audreydutton

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