Dies In Jail Waiting Three Months for State Hospital Bed After Stealing $5 Junk Food

 

Photo courtesy of Roxane Adams.

Photo courtesy of Roxane Adams.

If you think Virginia solved its hospital bed shortage problem after state Senator Creigh Deeds and his son were turned away from a local community mental health center with tragic results, you are wrong.  Deeds son, Gus, attacked his father and then ended his own life in 2013 after being told there were no crisis care beds available locally.

This is yet another black eye for my home state, which has failed to adequately deal with mental health problems despite promises made after the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 that left 33 dead.

After you read this story, you will understand why mental health reform must include discussions about crisis care beds, state hospital beds, and community housing, as well as CIT and  jail diversion.

Death of a young black man in a Virginia prison sparks outrage

Jamycheal Mitchell allegedly stole $5 worth of junk food from a 7-11. Four months later, he was found dead in a jail cell.

Christian Science Monitor

Local activists are incensed over the death of Jamycheal Mitchell, 24, in a Portsmouth, Va., jail this week. Mr. Mitchell had a history of mental illness, said local paper The Virginian-Pilot, and he was being held awaiting transfer to a mental hospital.

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Taking My Parents’ Ashes Back To My Childhood Home: Memories, Mourning, and Mystery

death

One of the last times I returned to Fowler, Colorado, was when I was working for The Washington Post and my good friend and editor, Walt Harrington, urged me to revisit my teenage home and write about my sister’s death. Alice died in a car accident and is buried there.

Even though my parents moved away from Fowler in 1970, they wanted their ashes taken there for internment — so after my mom died in 2013 and my father passed away earlier this year, it fell upon my brother, George, and me to carry out their wishes.

Not a day goes by when I don’t think of my parents and I am glad they were wise enough to have us make the journey together. In the eyes of my parents, it was a “reunion” and a time to remember when the five of us had lived together as a family. For me, it was time to grieve, to bond with my brother, to honor our parents and to ponder many of the same questions about death that had haunted me nearly thirty years ago when I set out on a trip to understand my sister’s death.

 

MISSING ALICE: The Story of My Sister, Her Death, and My Search for Answers

(First published in the Washington Post in 1986)

Midway across Ohio, the man beside me on the DC-10 asked where I was going.

“Fowler, Colorado. A little town of about a thousand people near Pueblo.”

“Why would anyone go to Foouuller?” he asked, grinning as he exaggerated the name.

“A death. My sister.”

“Sorry,” he mumbled and turned away.

I was relieved. I didn’t have to explain that my sister had been dead 19 years. Alice was killed when I was 14. She was two years older and we had been inseparable as children.

I couldn’t talk about her death at first. My voice would deepen, my eyes would fill with tears. My parents would cry at the mention of her name, and we rarely spoke of her. Then it seemed too late.

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Helpful Recommendations: Why Jails And Prisons Shouldn’t Be Asylums

Mental-Health

I have been a member of a mental health subcommittee studying ways to improve services in Fairfax County, Virginia where I live. The introduction to our draft report might be useful reading for many of you. I have edited out several local references and added some key points in parenthesis.

You’ll find that much of our report contains information that I have cited in my speeches and previous blogs. You might want to compare what we are suggesting with services in your community.

Mental Health Reform: An Introduction 

“Police officers have increasingly become the first responders when a citizen is in the midst of a psychiatric crisis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), up to 40% of adults who experience serious mental illness in their lifetime will come into contact with the police and the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. (1) The vast majority of these individuals will be charged with minor misdemeanor and low-level felony offenses that are a direct result of their psychiatric illnesses – the most common being trespassing or disorderly conduct.

Despite the minor nature of these crimes, encounters between persons with mental illness and the police can escalate, sometimes with tragic consequences. Nearly half of all fatal shootings by law enforcement locally and nationally involve persons with mental illnesses.

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A 14 Year Old Asks: Who Would My Father Be Without His Mental Illness?

 children mentally

by Rebecca

Age fourteen

Imagine living every day being reminded of what a failure you are. Imagine going to bed every day feeling defeated and hopeless. Imagine never being capable of reaching anyone’s expectations. Imagine losing every dream you ever dreamed and losing grasp of the life you once had. Imagine waking up every day with this despair, knowing you are incapable of living differently.

This is the life of many with severe mental illness.

Mental illness is a heavy burden on my heart because my father has suffered severely with mental illnesses his entire life. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, severe depression, personality disorders, and other mental health issues. Because of his severe mental condition, he has lost everything.

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Anger About Holmes’ Sentence, Discrimination Against College Students, Congratulations To Judge Leifman and Tiny Houses In Dallas

Discrimination against college students with mental health issues

Discrimination against college students with mental health issues

 

Here are four bits that I’d like to share this Friday. One is about Judge Steven Leifman, another cites discrimination against college students with mental illnesses, the third reports fallout over the James Holmes sentence in the Aurora Movie Theater mass murder and the last offers a creative solution to ending chronic homelessness in Dallas.

1. CONGRATULATIONS!

My good friend, Judge Steven Leifman, who was courageous enough to get me into the Miami Dade Detention Center so that I could write my book, will receive the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Center for State Courts. The award will be presented by Chief Justice John Roberts and is one of the highest honors that a judge can receive. Two mental health reform bills making their way through Congress call for the appointment of a defacto federal mental health czar. One requires that position to be filled by a psychiatrist while the other is more relaxed but requires a mental health professional. Too bad because Judge Leifman would be the perfect official to run SAMHSA and our federal mental health programs.

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How Can Someone Who Is “CIT Certified” Not Understand CIT? – Troubling Statements By Sheriff Candidate

jailfairfax

A recent front page story in my local newspaper caused me to wonder if some law enforcement officers actually understand Crisis Intervention Team training even though they publicly endorse it.

In a newspaper interview under the headline: Fairfax Sheriff’s Race Heats Up, a veteran police officer now running to be our sheriff made several troubling comments. According to his webpage, Byron Wolfe is a strong proponent of CIT, listing it as one of his top priorities if elected.

Bryon Wolfe

Bryon Wolfe

But he’s quoted in the newspaper completely dismissing his opponent’s efforts to implement jail diversion.

“Wolfe…said focusing on (jail) diversion programs deters the sheriff’s department’s attention away from handling mental illness within the jails.

“The Fairfax County police are the ones that deal with diversion,” Wolfe said. “The Fairfax County Sheriff’s deputies — they’re not involved in that decision making. They’re just going to wait and see if a prisoner is brought to them. Waiting for a huge diversion program — that’s not going to happen: who has the funding for that?

Wolfe said his campaign platform instead is set on restoring the county’s trust in the department. He said he aims to do this by installing cameras in the jail to record ‘the good and the bad.'”

Thinking that jail diversion is only a issue for the police goes directly against the core principles of CIT. If you check the CIT International website — the parent organization of CIT — you will find this statement:

CIT Basic Goals: *Improve Officer and Consumer Safety. *Redirect Individuals with Mental Illness from the Judicial System to the Health Care System.

That second goal is Jail Diversion.

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