Victoria Herr — best known by her friends and family as Tori — was arrested on heroin charges in Pennsylvania in 2015. Her mother, Stephanie Moyer, originally found comfort in her daughter’s sentencing, believing that she would be safe in jail until she was able to get into a treatment center. But three days after she was incarcerated, Moyer received a call from her daughter. She sounded disorientated, feared she was dying, and complained of being thirsty.
A few days later, Herr, who had a 10-bag-a-say heroin habit, collapsed at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility following several days of severe vomiting and diarrhea. She spent five days in the hospital before dying over Easter in 2015.
Sadly this is far from the first time something like this has happened. Over the last two years, at least half a dozen inmate deaths involving heroin withdrawal have been reported nationwide, and the number continues to grow. So Stephanie Moyer decided to take a stand.
“This is a woman who died because she was detoxing,” said Moyer’s lawyer Jonathan Feinberg, who filed a federal civil right lawsuit Monday. “Had Tori Herr’s withdrawal been treated … she almost certainly would be alive today.”
Emma Freudenberger, a co-counsel on the lawsuit elaborated, “This is an emerging, growing problem, and it’s hitting communities all over the country. That’s exponentially so in jails.”
Herr was staggering by the time she was taken to the medical unit the last night there, according to Moyer’s lawsuit. She was given water and Ensure, but resumed vomiting when she returned to her cell, the lawsuit said. Dehydration brought on by constant vomiting and diarrhea can lead to delirium, an electrolyte imbalance, and cardiac damage. Herr also went without oxygen after she collapsed, the suit said.
“I’m not a professional, but, as a mother — day 1 — I would have taken her to the hospital if I would have seen her vomiting or not keeping things down,” Moyer said.
Moyer last saw her daughter the before her arrest when they talked about Herr attending an inpatient treatment program.
“I told her that her name was Victoria and that’s close to ‘victorious,’ and I promised her she would be victorious in getting through it,” Moyer said.