Crowded hospitals leave mentally ill inmates in jail

State hospitals lack space, budget to meet demands

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Jerry Kimble should be in a mental hospital.

The doctors who examined him say it. The attorney representing him and the assistant district attorney assigned to prosecute Kimble believe it. So does the judge who signed the order committing him.

But Kimble, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, remains in a Richmond County jail cell, despite the order signed a month ago today by Judge Carl C. Brown Jr., committing him to a mental hospital.

Kimble is not alone. Across Georgia, 184 men and women who have been deemed mentally incapable of standing trial are locked in jails for weeks and months because there isn't enough room in the state's seven mental hospitals.

"That's what jails have turned into -- mental hospitals," said Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Gene Johnson, who oversees the county's overcrowded jail.

Kimble is one of a dozen men in the jail who shouldn't be there because a judge has ordered their commitment. In fact, once a doctor determined in the spring that Kimble was incompetent to stand trial, he should have remained in the hospital instead of being shipped back to the jail, said Susan Jamieson, of Atlanta Legal Aid. Jamieson is an attorney who works for indigent mentally ill people to help them with treatment issues.

"It's totally illegal and contrary to the Americans With Disabilities Act and state law," Jamieson said of the practice of leaving mentally incompetent people in jail cells.

The state is required by law to treat Kimble and every other person in Georgia in the same circumstances, Jamieson said.

The state is responsible, but the state's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, which controls Georgia's mental hospitals and treatment options, has a limited budget, said Tom Wilson, the department's spokesman.

Across the state, there are only 600 spaces for people such as Kimble, who needs to be in a forensic ward, Wilson said.

"They stay pretty much full," and there's a waiting list, he said.

The department could expand the number of spaces in the forensic wards, but that means more money, Wilson said. Georgia's lawmakers have slashed the state budget repeatedly in the past two years, sparing only Wilson's department the last time, he said.

The department has been focused this past year on improving conditions inside the state's mental hospitals in an attempt to stay ahead of a federal lawsuit the U.S. Justice Department filed against the state, the governor, the commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, and the commissioner of the state's Department of Community Health.

The lawsuit alleges that the treatment and safety of patients is so poor that it violates the U.S. Constitution's protective clauses meant to keep all Americans safe.

Federal and state attorneys announced in January 2009 that they had negotiated a settlement agreement, but mental health advocates opposed such a quick settlement without more investigation. The Justice Department continued to track the state's treatment of mentally ill and disabled people and on Jan. 28 asked the judge for permission to amend its complaint. On July 1, Georgia's attorneys fired back, claiming the Justice Department was trying to change the terms of the negotiated settlement and ignoring the three-year window the state had to make the necessary improvements.

Kimble and other inmates like him have been left out of all those discussions and legal maneuvering, said Jamieson, whose clients are most often trying to get out of the hospitals because they believe they no longer meet the requirements for hospitalization.

Poor, incarcerated, mentally ill people fall to the bottom of the barrel, she said.

Off their meds

Kimble's mother, Linda Curry, has been beside herself with worry and frustration.

His symptoms first developed around the age of 15. He ended up in a hospital in such bad condition that doctors told her he would never be well enough to leave. But she and her husband worked constantly with Kimble, and his doctors finally agreed to let him return home with two medications, one if which cost $1,500 a month, Curry said.

Her son was like many young adults with schizophrenia. He didn't want to take the medicine because of the side effects, she said. He was off his medication on Sept. 20 just after midnight when he was nabbed outside a burglarized home on Woodlake Road. The deputy at the scene caught his brother, Izale Kimble, coming through a broken rear window. Both were arrested.

Curry said her son went without his medication for three months while in jail. In a paranoid state, he attacked another jail inmate in December because he believed the man was making sexual advances, Curry said. Kimble now faces an additional charge of aggravated assault. He was sent to the hospital, where he was stabilized with the proper medication, Curry said. But once stable, he was shipped back to the Richmond County jail.

When asked about the incident, Johnson said federal law prohibits any release of inmate medical information.

It's like a revolving door with mentally ill inmates, he said. If an inmate has an extreme episode, the person can be taken to a hospital emergency room. But the inmate will be medicated and sent right back as soon as he's stable, Johnson said. "It's a never-ending battle for us."

Waiting list

Todd Snyder, 50, has been in the county jail for nearly a year. He was accused of burglary and arrested after an officer on routine patrol was flagged down. Someone was in the closed Ming Wah Restaurant on Baker Avenue just before 1 a.m. July 27. The deputy saw Snyder, who was homeless, step out of the front door, according to the incident report.

On Jan. 6, Judge Sheryl B. Jolly signed an order that should have meant Snyder's immediate hospitalization. But Snyder was still in jail this weekend.

Johnson said he would like to get mentally incompetent people out of the jails, but once a judge signs the commitment orders, he cannot release them to anyone but the mental hospitals, he said.

It costs Richmond County taxpayers $47 a day to house an inmate, Johnson said. Right now, he has 12 inmates deemed mentally incompetent waiting on beds in the mental hospitals. Thirteen other inmates have been evaluated and are awaiting reports from doctors. Six others are at hospitals.

Wilson said lack of space isn't a new problem in the state. There have been waiting lists for a number of years.

There are some proactive steps the behavior health department wants to take, he said -- working with those in the criminal justice system to speed up legal proceedings that would help move patients through the hospitals faster, and establishing diversion programs such as mental health courts.

Judge James G. Blanchard Jr., who presides over the Augusta Circuit's drug court, hopes to start a mental health court. He was impressed with a recent visit to the Savannah mental health court, he said.

"The jails are not intended to be hospitals," Blanchard said.

The great thing about drug court is the ability to get these people through the system faster, get them stabilized on medications and established on a monitoring system, he said.

Georgia mental hospitals

- East Central Regional Hospital (Augusta)

- Southwestern State Hospital (Thomasville)

- West Central Georgia Regional Hospital (Columbus)

- Central State Hospital (Milledgeville)

- Georgia Regional Hospital (Atlanta)

- Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital (Rome)

- Georgia Regional Hospital (Savannah)

Comments (22) Add comment
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HTN007
19
Points
HTN007 07/11/10 - 02:52 am
0
0
Currently you have 1]

Currently you have 1] criminals without mental illness, 2] criminals with mental illnesses and 3] those with mental illness without criminality. Those who are in 3] clearly need to be in mental hospitals. Those in 1] need to be in jails. And, to back up drug courts and mental health courts, there needs to be a new facility within jails that segregates 1] from 2] and allows ttreatment for mental illnesses on site without transfer to mental hospitals which are already overcrowded and cannot any longer accomodate criminals with mental illnesses.

mrrhodes89
0
Points
mrrhodes89 07/11/10 - 05:01 am
0
0
HTN007, please clarify your

HTN007, please clarify your statement. From my interpretation it says that we should commit those with mental illnesses, even though they haven't committed any crimes? That seems a bit extreme. You know, autism is listed as a mental illness. Attention defecit hyperactivity disorder is also listed as a mental illness. Should we commit all of those individuals to mental hospitals too? I can understand the need for providing medical assistance to those with severe mental illnesses (as well as peace of mind for the general public), but to just commit everyone with a mental illness to a mental institution is just as wrong as putting an innocent person in jail.

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 07/11/10 - 04:16 pm
0
0
Many of the "homeless" are

Many of the "homeless" are just mentally ill people. What to do with them has been a problem since the beginning of society. Right now, especially when the governments are tight on money, the federal subsidy programs are wasting billions each month above what they need to be investing. Money is available for the "mentally ill" that would be wards of the state, but inefficiencies in distribution is using it up.
Who thinks things will change for the better?

disssman
6
Points
disssman 07/11/10 - 06:46 am
0
0
Mrrhodes99. Are you saying

Mrrhodes99. Are you saying people with Autism should be left to fend for themselves? I wonder just how long they would live? As to the examples in the letter, it is apparent that the Kimble boys are fully capable of burglary. I am wondering if they wern't really responsible for many burglarys in Woodlake. The question is why isn't he a ward of the state? It is apparent his mother isn't watching him and is only worried about the $1500 a month pill cost that taxpayers cough up. This problem started when "counselors" decided that we didn't need mental institutions, which were subsequently tore down, and could easily house them in homes in normal neighnorhoods. Now thosse same counselors are beating the drum for new hospitals.

justus4
101
Points
justus4 07/11/10 - 07:04 am
0
0
Of course this is a huge
Unpublished

Of course this is a huge problem that will go unreported and only get worse. Society don't care, judges don't care, and that wicked prison industrial complex really don't care because it keeps their occupancy numbers up. It is a crying shame, but NOTHING will be done about it just a bunch of lip service. Great country, eh?

soldout
1280
Points
soldout 07/11/10 - 08:15 am
0
0
EFT has been used to help

EFT has been used to help many of these mental problems without any meds and it is very fast even fixing 30 year problems in minutes. Some with bi-polar disorder don't absorb fatty acids and that problem is fixed in 15 minutes with NAET. There are many answers out there that can fix folks that are non-invasive, no meds and cost almost nothing. Several studies show how effective EFT has been for vets. We as a society find it hard to accept free or inexpensive approaches because we falsely believe for something to be good it must be expensive. The best answers are always simple and usually free.

chascush
0
Points
chascush 07/11/10 - 08:43 am
0
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justic4, “Great country, eh?”

justic4, “Great country, eh?” You are so very correct it is the greatest country in the history of the world. Maybe you should go to Africa? They really treat the mentally disturbed well there. One reason our country has trouble taking care of the mentally disturbed is because we are supporting a very large % of parasites. Able bodied people able to work but would rather live off the taxpayers. Put the good for nothing parasites to work and there will be more than enough $ to help the mentally disturbed. Augusta is full of those parasites.

corgimom
32400
Points
corgimom 07/11/10 - 11:08 am
0
0
"Of course this is a huge

"Of course this is a huge problem that will go unreported and only get worse. Society don't care, judges don't care, and that wicked prison industrial complex really don't care because it keeps their occupancy numbers up. It is a crying shame, but NOTHING will be done about it just a bunch of lip service. Great country, eh?"

Absolutely, Justus, we all know that if it weren't for those pesky mentally ill prisoners, why, the prisons would have to close for lack of inmates. Right.

corgimom
32400
Points
corgimom 07/11/10 - 11:20 am
0
0
soldout, I would be very

soldout, I would be very interested in reading the "several studies" that show that EFT is effective for vets. Please post a link. Because here's what I found:

"Gary Craig, founder of EFT, video recoreded his work with veterans for 6 Days. The work was done at a VA facility somewhere in California. "
Somewhere in California? Gary Craig didn't know where he was at?

To date, 131 vets have enrolled in the project. A big thank you to Dawson Church, Crystal Hawk and the 64 EFT volunteers (many can do it by phone).
They can treat depression and PTSD by phone? Who knew?

"The Iraq Vets Stress Project is determined to make a difference. It offers returning vets free or low-cost sessions using Energy Psychology, a method which many therapists and coaches are using to help veterans with PTSD to get their lives back. "
"low-cost sessions"- ah, I knew there was money in this somewhere. It's run by Soul Medicine Institute (I am not making this up) and this is what they say on their web site:

Through its research projects and educational programs, SMI investigates the epigenetic effect of intention, consciousness and energy in healing. Epigenetics is the new science describing influences that alter the expression of genes (epi=above; epigenetic=control of DNA from above or outside the gene). New research shows that consciousness (beliefs, emotions, optimism, altruism, visualization, prayer, energy, meditation) has epigenetic effects; SMI is a leader in applying these methods for better health, happiness and longevity.

What a bunch of horsefeathers!

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 07/11/10 - 11:52 am
0
0
Yep.. feels like the Reagan
Unpublished

Yep.. feels like the Reagan days. Close up the mental hospitals and throw them out on the streets.

airbud7
1
Points
airbud7 07/11/10 - 12:57 pm
0
0
Richmond County jail will

Richmond County jail will always be overcrowded with poor people becouse they only get $100 credit per month off there traffic ticket at a cost of $1410.00 per month to the tax payer, however if you are a crack dealer, and have money, you pay your fine and get probation. when you have a system that cost tax payers $7050.00 just to collect $500.00 and also have 1 less bed in the jail that the sheriff could use for a violent offender you have broken system.

chascush
0
Points
chascush 07/11/10 - 01:29 pm
0
0
As I said earlier; get rid

As I said earlier; get rid the free loading parasites and there will be more than enough money for the mentally ill.

Junket831
0
Points
Junket831 07/11/10 - 01:29 pm
0
0
Seems in the first example in

Seems in the first example in this article, the family should shoulder a significant amount of responsibility for their son. He was in an institution getting the care and level of support he needs but they decided to being him home, against the advice of the mental health community.

So what does he go and do, burglarize a house with who? His brother no less. The family should pay for this one, including the expense of getting him proper help.

As a tax payer I am tired , very tired of the tremendous amount of time, resources and energy spent on mentally ill cases that show no interest or are incapable of conforming to society. Most of the problems are behavioral, with little or no incentive to correct the behavior. The rest of society is expected to accept these behaviors because "Lil Johnny" is different. It's one thing when the individual has serious problems, but another entirely when elements of society start covering up for those problems and then ask why the rest of have difficulty accepting it or even show a willingness to pay for it.

Serious mental illness is a problem. Unfortunately, it is made far worse by family members, mental health professionals and politicians.

soldout
1280
Points
soldout 07/11/10 - 02:04 pm
0
0
No horse feathers; just good

No horse feathers; just good results with EFT. I watched the older video when they did it a couple of years ago before they did this project. I have been to the classes and watched the effects on others and have treated some myself in class. Just a great tool and learning how to do it is free. What a deal! Those who don't have an interest in it cant be helped or hurt by it sothey can safely miss out. Once you understand why it works it becomes easy to understand. It is sort of like prayer with physical stimulation that raises the brain's awareness to a level that equals the event that caused the problem.

corgimom
32400
Points
corgimom 07/11/10 - 02:24 pm
0
0
Yes, I can safely miss out.

Yes, I can safely miss out. Let me guess- you offer "low-cost" sessions, too, don't you?

If you are so convinced of its effectiveness, why aren't you volunteering at the VA?

ocbarmq
0
Points
ocbarmq 07/11/10 - 05:04 pm
0
0
EFT and NAET are not

EFT and NAET are not empirically supported and make no theoretical sense (does not comport to what we know about the well-established biopsychosocial model of mental illness). "fixing 30 year problems in minutes." Hogwash. If something sounds too good to be true....

mrrhodes89
0
Points
mrrhodes89 07/11/10 - 07:18 pm
0
0
That's what I'm asking.

That's what I'm asking. Autism is a spectrum-disorder. Some autistic people have gone on to live "normal" lives.

gardengirl27
0
Points
gardengirl27 07/11/10 - 07:52 pm
0
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disssman: Counselors were not

disssman: Counselors were not the ones pushing to close inpatient mental health facilities. That push came during the 1980's from the federal government after psychotropic medications became more effective with fewer negative side effects. It was thought that it would be cheaper to "treat-and-street" those with mental disorders rather than give long-term care. Insurance companies were more than pleased to only pay for meds rather than needed (and, admittedly, expensive) inpatient treatment. The State of Georgia has made no secret in their plans to continue reducing the money available for possible inpatient treatment in favor of increased outpatient treatment, despite the fact that such outpatient care for severe mental disorders has not been empirically shown to be effective.

gaspringwater
3
Points
gaspringwater 07/11/10 - 08:36 pm
0
0
Georgia’s mental institutions

Georgia’s mental institutions have withered for lack of funds. Victimize by legislatures' neglect and cost cutting for years.

The U.S. Justice Department and the federal courts should act quickly to protect Georgia's mentally ill, whether they're institutionalized or they're treated as out-patients. Put the state under a federal court order to remedy the situation expeditiously ( no dragging around! ).

chascush
0
Points
chascush 07/11/10 - 08:54 pm
0
0
gaspringwater, As I said

gaspringwater, As I said earlier; get rid of the free loading parasites and there will be more than enough money for the mentally ill. Augusta is a good example where you have more people on entitlement programs than you have working. Just look around, a bunch of able bodied free loading parasites.
Put the state under a federal court order to get rid of the free loading parasites that will remedy the situation expeditiously ( no dragging around! ).

chascush
0
Points
chascush 07/11/10 - 08:59 pm
0
0
gradengirl27, there is only

gradengirl27, there is only so much money; support the free loading parasites or help the mentally ill you make the choice. The DUMocrats have made the choice they would rather support the free loading parasites because the parasites are what keeps them in office.

veggie-d
0
Points
veggie-d 07/11/10 - 09:28 pm
0
0
there was a very successful

there was a very successful "accidental therapeutic program" in the 1910s/20s(?) that involved moving mental patients from a residential hospital in michigan(?) to the lawn/campus to live in surplus military tents, while remodeling was done in the summer. construction ran into the fall...then to winter...and the patients actually began to IMPROVE due to increased sense of self worth/accomplishment.it boosted their self esteem/self worth from living together in realitively primitive conditions during the EXTREMELY cold winter months where temps were regularly below zero. the "toughed it out" and gained the respect/admiration of others who worked/lived in heated buildings.

after the remodeling was completed, many of the residents did NOT want to return to the new residential unit, because they had bonded and supported each other giving them a sense of independence and value to others in their immediate "community".

their mutual support and encouragement was noticed by all the staff and employees of the hospital who often visited the "lawn camp" to hang out/relax...

there are VERY effective/affordable ways to provide a healthy/safe/secure treatment environment for many mental illnesses...

and the patients/society may actually prefer the alternative...

gaspringwater
3
Points
gaspringwater 07/11/10 - 09:29 pm
0
0
chascush - Thanks for your

chascush - Thanks for your comment but Georgia can appropriate money to provide for the mentally ill and the federal court can appoint an independent administrator. " Solving entitlement programs" is more of an opinionated subject. More in the realm of politics than medicine.

soldout
1280
Points
soldout 07/11/10 - 11:47 pm
0
0
corgimom and ocbarmg; I am

corgimom and ocbarmg; I am sorry that you are offended by EFT and NAET but I can't help that they work and I have watched first hand the results. You won't find a single person that knows me say I have ever made things up and I have helped many and never hurt even one. I can't withhold knowledge that would help someone no more than I could refuse to give water to someone thristy. Muscle testing is also wonderful to learn and gives you tons of advantages from caring for the sick to finding the best watermelon in the stack. The things I learn make my life a joy and nothing is as good as ministry to others. The fact that many want to struggle with life rather than making it easy bothers me but doesn't slow me down and given the opportunity to bless you I will and you can't stop the blessing from coming to you. The giver is always in charge of their own joy and peace.

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