An Augusta tuberculosis patient who has refused medical treatment and could be contagious will be taken into custody, a judge ruled Tuesday.
The Richmond County Health Department filed a petition in Richmond County Superior Court earlier this month seeking the court’s help in getting Richard Pearre Jr. to comply with medical treatment.
Pearre was served notice of Tuesday’s hearing on May 17, but he failed to appear. Judge Sheryl B. Jolly heard from the health department staff, who testified that they have tried working with Pearre since January, when his infectious disease was reported, but he stopped cooperating.
Once tests confirmed Pearre had active, infectious TB in January, he began taking medication, testified Yumuriel Whitaker, a registered nurse with the health department. But Pearre, who wasn’t allowed to leave his home until the TB was no longer infectious, became upset and stopped complying because he couldn’t work. Because he had no money to pay his light bill and the service was about to be cut off, the health department paid the bill for him and he started taking his medicine again, she testified.
Mike Allison of the health department testified that Pearre was one of his clients. After it was determined Pearre was no longer a health threat, he returned to work and Allison found it nearly impossible to meet with Pearre after March 13. Pearre kept dodging the home visits, Allison said. The last time Allison talked with Pearre – when he chanced seeing Pearre driving and Allison followed him home – Pearre became hostile, told Allison he wasn’t taking any more medicine and ordered Allison off his property.
Taking all of the medication is crucial, Whitaker testified, because the patient can become infectious again if the drug regimen isn’t completed and develop a strain that is drug resistant.
Pearre has seven more months of treatment, and if he doesn’t resume the drug regimen by Wednesday, he will have to start over, Whitaker said.
Jolly found cause to have Pearre arrested. He will be held pending another court hearing where Jolly could order a commitment of up to two years.
Attorneys Harry Revell and Adam King said after the hearing that the committal would be to a specialized health care facility in Columbia. The health department prefers to have voluntary cooperation because, among other reasons, the county health department would be responsible for paying for the full cost of the committal, Revell said.