Report calls for changes after inmate death in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Portsmouth jail should provide better oversight of its health care providers and the state should take steps to ensure the accuracy of a waiting list for beds at a state mental hospital, Virginia’s inspector general said in a report issued Tuesday on the death of a 24-year-old inmate last year.

The report outlined several failures at the behavioral health agency and regional jail that it said contributed to Jamycheal Mitchell’s death, and called for numerous changes.

Mitchell died at the Hampton Roads Regional jail after losing so much weight his heart stopped in August, four months after he was arrested and accused of stealing a candy bar, a snack cake and a soda from a Portsmouth convenience store.

State investigators said last month that Mitchell’s name wasn’t on a waiting list for a bed at a state mental hospital, even though a judge had ordered him to be sent there. According to that report, the paperwork ended up in an “overwhelmed” state employee’s desk drawer, so Mitchell was never put on the list.

The inspector general’s office said the state mental hospital should develop a better system for consistently reviewing the list to ensure that it is up to date and accurate. The state also should create a clear written protocol outlining who is responsible for what tasks in managing inmates with mental illness at the jail, the report said.

The report also calls for the jail to do a better job at overseeing the quality of care provided by its contractors. A review of records from the company that provided medical and mental health care at the time of Mitchell’s death “raised significant concerns,” the inspector general’s office said.

The jail has since ended its contract with the company, but “a change in provider offers limited promises of improvement in care or documentation in the absence of a change in oversight practices,” the report said.

Maria Reppas, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, said in a statement that officials are currently reviewing the inspector general’s recommendations. The department has made several changes since last fall to reduce the number of people on the waiting list for beds and shorten the amount of time they’re on it, she said.

“Significant progress has been and will continue to be made,” Reppas said. “The agency is committed to providing the highest level of care to Virginians with mental illness.”

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