About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.

Virginia Officials Should Be Ashamed That Feds Had To Investigate How Inmate Starved To Death In Jail – Not Crowing About Consent Decree

 

Church bulletin at Jamycheal Mitchell’s funeral

(8-6-20) The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has proposed a consent decree with the Hampton Roads Regional Jail Authority, hopefully closing one of Virginia’s most egregious chapters involving abuse of a prisoner with a serious mental illnesses. If approved by a judge, the jail will be required to implement numerous reforms, including better care for its mentally ill inmates, more staffing, and adherence to the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The federal government stepped in because jail and state officials covered-up and did their best to ignore the August 2015 death of Jamycheal Mitchell, who suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The question we should be asking is whether our elected leaders have learned anything and taken steps to avoid future bureaucratic blundering if a death happens in a jail.

An autopsy concluded that Mitchell had died from a heart attack caused by “wasting syndrome,” which meant he’d starved himself to the point that his heart failed. Mitchell weighed 190 pounds when he was arrested for allegedly stealing $5 worth of snacks from a convenience store. The autopsy listed his weight at death as 144 pounds. Mitchell was waiting in the jail for 101 days for a state hospital bed to become available. After his death, hospital officials admitted that his transfer paperwork had been tossed in a drawer and forgotten. Guards were supposed to eyeball Mitchell each half-hour, and once a day he was supposed to be checked by a nurse employed by a for-profit company called Naph Care. There were no notations in his medical records that showed anyone had noticed his 46-pound weight loss.

It is surprising that  Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring was credited in a Virginian-Pilot story this morning for requesting the Justice Department get involved.

Mark Herring

It was the the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Virginia, the ACLU of Virginia, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Hampton-Newport News, Mental Health America of Virginia, the Portsmouth Branch of the NAACP, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law which called on June 6, 2016 for the Justice Department to investigate Mitchell’s death because state officials, including Herring, had done such a lousy job. I also wrote in the Washington Post about the need for a federal investigation. Herring didn’t ask for a federal probe until September 3, months after the advocates.

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Is New Police Device Humane or De-Humanizing? Also, Should Officers Be Stripped Of CIT Status If They Ignore Their Training?

Sales video promoting BOLA Wrap by Wrap Technologies

(8-3-20) Three comments about law enforcement and state prisons.

What do you do when Crisis Intervention Team Trained Officers are criticized for violence? 

Last Thursday’s blog post about four Springfield, Oregon police officers who fatally shot an unarmed young man with schizophrenia outraged many readers. What made the officers’ actions even more appalling was that all had undergone Crisis Intervention Team training and one of them was the department’s CIT trainer. None of the officers made an attempt to use his CIT training to de-escalate the situation, according to a detailed account written by Kimberly Kenny, whose brother, Patrick, was killed.  Nor were any of the officers disciplined – one was given a medal by the police union. The police department and city settled a wrongful death lawsuit out of court for $4.5 million.

Based on Kimberly’s report, I would not want these officers responding if I called the police and requested a CIT trained officer to help me during a mental health crisis. There should be some way for officers and departments to loose the right to identify themselves as CIT trained when none of what CIT teaches apparently is practiced.

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“I Will Never Forget Their Names” – Sister Writes Of Police Officers Who Fatally Shot Her Unarmed Brother Diagnosed With A Serious Mental Illness

Patrick Kenny before he was fatally shot by police.

 

(7-30-20) Dr. Mark Muentz wrote about the importance of Crisis Intervention Team training in a Monday blog post, but what happens when officers who have received CIT training are involved in a violent incident with someone who has a serious mental illness. In today’s blog – one in a series that I am posting about shifting responsibility for the seriously mentally ill from the police to social service agencies and the medical community – we hear from Kimberly Kenny, whose brother, Patrick aka Stacy, was fatally shot by police in Springfield, Oregon.  

Crisis Intervention Training Didn’t Prevent Four Police Officers From Assaulting and Killing My Brother

Guest blog by Kimberly Kenny

The entire incident took less than five minutes.

It happened a little before 9 pm on a Sunday, near a hardware store Patrick liked to go to sometimes.

Officer Kraig Akins saw Patrick driving and ran his license plate, and then didn’t see Patrick’s car again for another two minutes, when they happened to cross paths again. Patrick was driving west on Olympic Street, Akins was on a side street and as Patrick passed, Akins pulled out behind Patrick. Akins’ lights and siren were off. Patrick immediately signaled and pulled over, probably because he was scared and hoped the policeman would drive by.

Patrick had paranoid schizophrenia and one of his biggest fears was the police. He was kind and generous and smart, and with his schizophrenia sometimes he acted weirdly but never violently.

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“No one should be a police officer who lacks empathy or good communication skills,” Expert Says

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

(7-20-20) I’m encouraging discussion about calls to shift responsibility for Americans with serious mental illnesses away from law enforcement back to social services and the medical community. Dr. Mark Munetz, Professor and Chair Emeritus of Psychiatry at Northeast Ohio Medical University, is co-author of the Sequential Intercept Model that is widely used by law enforcement and communities to identify key intersections when someone with a mental illness can be “intercepted” and receive treatment, especially after they enter the criminal justice system. I greatly admire Dr. Munetz who today offers his views on policing and mental illnesses. 

I’m Not Enthusiastic About Defunding The Police

Guest Blog By Mark Munetz

Funding for treatment and support of individuals with mental illness in America is woefully inadequate.  I spent my career as a psychiatrist advocating to change this.  So one might think I would be enthusiastic about the current call to defund the police and use some of the savings to increase mental health funding so that mental health professionals can respond to mental health crises rather than police.

But that is not the case.

Serious mental disorders affect approximately one out of 20 adults.  At best, half receive treatment.  Without treatment these conditions can be disabling and result in startling rates of premature death.  We know that treatment works but our systems are inadequate to engage many with the greatest needs.  All too many end up in jail or prison.  Today there are ten times as many people with serious mental illness in our nation’s jails and prisons than in psychiatric hospitals.

I have spent much of the past two decades working to address this complex problem.  While increased mental health funding is necessary to address the over-representation of people with mental illness in the justice system, it alone is not sufficient.  We also must address larger societal problems like poverty, homelessness and systemic racism. There cannot be a zero-sum game of funding for the police and human services.  We need to increase our overall funding for human services including what I call re-invented police work.

There is a model of such policing.

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Kim Kardashian’s Lament About Mental Illness Gets National Attention

(7-24-20) My former colleague, Eugene Robinson, at The Washington Post, writes about Kim Kardashian West’s public comments earlier this week concerning her husband’s mental challenges.

Unless an adult is assessed to pose a danger to himself or others, family members are reduced to bystanders. They cannot force Kanye West to take medication. They cannot force him to seek psychiatric help or have him involuntarily committed unless they can demonstrate that he poses a danger to himself or others. They can see a disaster coming yet have no way to prevent it.

Kim Kardashian West and her husband, Kanye West, attend the Vanity Fair Oscar party in Beverly Hills during the 92nd Academy Awards in Los Angeles in February.

Kim Kardashian West and her husband, Kanye West, attend the Vanity Fair Oscar party in Beverly Hills during the 92nd Academy Awards in Los Angeles in February. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Kim Kardashian West just performed a public service

By Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post

I never thought I’d begin a column by praising Kim Kardashian West, but I do so today.

Arguably the world’s most famous-for-being-famous celebrity, Kardashian West performed a valuable public service this week by talking openly about the helplessness family members can feel when trying to cope with a loved one’s mental illness.

The person Kardashian West loves, and who is so publicly grappling with bipolar disorder, is her husband, musical genius Kanye West, who with grandiose and calamitous fanfare has launched what he claims is a campaign for the presidency. When he announced his candidacy on Independence Day, my first worry was that he could siphon away votes that Joe Biden will need to defeat President Trump. My second concern was that helping Trump might be the whole point: West has been a vocal supporter of the president, whom he bear-hugged in the Oval Office. But then West held his first campaign event — and my thinking changed.

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3 New Books By Advocates About Mental Illnesses & Recovery

(7-22-20) Advocates who have written for my blog or spoken to me personally are releasing three new books about mental illness. The titles are:

A Family Guide to Mental Health Recovery: What You Need to Know from Day One by Virgil Stucker and Stephanie McMahon.

He Came In With It: A Portrait of Motherhood and Madness by Miriam Feldman

Fix What You Can by Mindy Greiling

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