PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth is making changes to its medical contract, including mental health staffing.
Norfolk City Councilman Andy Protogyrou sits on the board, which includes council members, sheriffs, and representatives from each jurisdiction.
“You’re talking about a facility that at many times 50% of the people that are there are on some type of psychiatric medication,” he said.
In September of 2014, 38 percent of inmates there were on psychiatric medication, and a year later the number had jumped to 54 percent, Protogyrou said.
He said the jail’s medical contract was up in October, and the death of Jamycheal Mitchell and other issues factored into the board’s discussion about the new contract.
The 24-year-old died in his cell at the jail in August. He was arrested in April for allegedly trespassing and stealing snacks from a 7-Eleven in Portsmouth. A judge ordered Mitchell to be taken to a mental health facility, but no beds were available. According to the Medical Examiner’s office, Mitchell likely died from a heart problem and weight loss. The jail’s investigation found nothing criminal and no evidence of foul play involving inmates or staff. An official there said they did all they could, but a mental health facility could have done more for Mitchell.
“There’s increased hours for a psychiatrist and psychologist…The most mentally ill will receive staffing 16 hours a day, two different shifts…Each pod will receive a decentralized sick call and that will make sure that the nurses’ station and examination room are open 24/7,” Protogyrou said. He also said the changes would include a continuity of staffing and a consultant to monitor the contract.
It’s not clear when the changes will go into effect.
WAVY News left messages for the jail and the Mitchell family attorney about the changes. The family’s lawyer previously said they did not think Mitchell was taking medication or eating. The jail said Mitchell returned food trays empty and they could not force him to take his medication.
Police are still investigating the case.