Crime & Courts

Contractor, lawyer differ on whether doctor facing charges was picked as jail medical director

Steven R. Henson
Steven R. Henson Courtesy of Sedgwick County Jail

Steven Henson – the Wichita doctor now facing federal charges accusing him of money laundering and illegal distribution of pain medications – was offered the job as medical director of the Sedgwick County Jail but didn’t pass the vetting, a spokesman for the medical contractor said Monday.

However, Henson’s defense attorney said Monday that Henson had been selected for the position and was to start the job soon but was arrested.

“He had that job lined up, and then his arrest … terminated that offer,” Wichita attorney Kurt Kerns told The Eagle. Kerns was asked to comment on whether Henson had been selected for the job.

Kerns said he has seen a Nov. 23 email from a representative of the contractor saying “they have extended to you a verbal offer” of at least $200,000 plus benefits, detailed in writing.

That differs with the account given by Jim Cheney, spokesman for the jail medical contractor, Correct Care Solutions.

“However, he (Henson) perceived it, we were not in the process of hiring him, nor did we hire him,” Cheney said. “ … He was from what I understand a candidate for the position … He was an applicant, he went through the process, but he was rejected as a candidate for that position.”

Cheney said he couldn’t comment on why Henson didn’t pass the vetting.

Although Cheney said “there was an offer that was sent to Dr. Henson,” it was contingent on him passing three phases: being qualified, clearing a background check and passing a drug screening. Henson didn’t get through the initial, qualifying stage, Cheney said.

Instead of getting a new job, Henson ended up being booked into the same jail – the largest in the state – where his attorney says he would have been in charge of inmates’ medical care.

Sheriff’s Lt. Lin Dehning explained the process this way: Correct Care Solutions hires jail medical staff. The Sheriff’s Office then does a background check to see whether the person can have access to the jail. It’s possible that someone hired wouldn’t pass the background check, Dehning said.

Dehning said he can’t comment on the contractor’s hiring process.

The Sheriff’s Office does a background check once it receives notice from the contractor; sometimes the checks are done “pre-employment,” sometimes after the offer, Dehning said.

“We had not received any notice from the contractor to do one on him,” Dehning said.

According to an online description of the jail job opening, one requirement is that the candidate has a “current DEA number.” According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Henson was registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration to dispense prescription controlled substances.

The indictment accuses Henson of illegally dispensing oxycodone to an undercover DEA agent on multiple occasions in May. In August, DEA agents took a search warrant to Henson’s home and remained there for more than an hour and a half, the indictment says.

Also, according to the job description, one of the qualifications is having emergency medicine experience. Henson had previously served as an emergency-room doctor in Wichita, Kerns said.

The jail medical director job would have been in addition to Henson’s work at his pain-medicine practice, Kerns said. Henson operated Kansas Men’s Clinic at 3636 N. Ridge Road. The job description says the medical directorship is a full-time, day-shift position that includes examining patients.

Henson still has a medical license but voluntarily is no longer issuing prescriptions for controlled substances, Kerns said.

On Jan. 14, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that Henson had been indicted on federal drug and money-laundering charges. The next day, a judge ordered that he be released from custody on a $50,000 unsecured bond.

Henson, 54, is facing 31 criminal counts. Some of the charges allege that he diverted prescription drugs to the streets, including medication that led to the overdose death of one patient last summer.

Henson has pleaded not guilty.

Tim Potter: 316-268-6684, @terporter

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