Jails pick up the slack in the fight to fund treatment for the mentally ill
Sheriff’s deputies responded to the home of State Senator Creigh Deeds Monday with an emergency custody order for his son, Gus.
Here in Virginia Beach–that officer would be someone like Andrea Bryk, a member of the police department’s Crisis Intervention Team.
“The emergency custody order is valid for four hours, so an evaluation can be conducted, however most of the time is spent searching for a bed,” said Officer Bryk.
Psychiatric beds that are hard to come by. No bed could be found for Gus Deeds, according to the local community services board, and he was released from emergency custody.
The next morning, police think he stabbed his father, and shot himself to death.
“I have seen a few times, that we haven’t had a bed, and I’ve had to bring a person back to their family,” said Officer Bryk.
Those people, left without help, are at higher risk of committing crimes, and many times, end up in jail.
“It’s sad that as the sheriff, I’m the largest mental health provider in the state of Virginia,” said Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle. “It’s not what I ran for, I inherited it, and it’s getting worse every year.”
Sheriff Stolle says out of his 1,500 inmates, about 20% of them have some sort of mental illness.
“Schizophrenic, bi-polar, you name it, they have it,” said Stolle.
The Beach sheriff has tried to make the best of a bad situation, creating a special housing area for these inmates with serious psychotic disorders, to help them acclimate to jail and start the rehabilitation process.
No more medical isolation…instead, his mentally ill inmates are allowed to socialize, exercise, and even watch TV together.
“We try to focus on the misdemeanors, the short-timers, who will be released back into society,” said Stolle. “The public doesn’t realize that one day they are locked up like an animal, and the next day, they are out.”
As a State Senator, Stolle worked closely with Creigh Deeds, and hopes his family’s story will be the beginning of change for the mentally ill in Virginia.
“Because of the shock value that this has, the General Assembly will have to face some of these needs next year, and fund those needs,” said Stolle.
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