RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The family of a mentally ill inmate who died in jail is pushing for changes at the General Assembly.
It was an emotional day for the family of Jamycheal Mitchell. The family shed tears during a news conference with lawmakers Wednesday.
“My son died in a jail by himself. Nobody knows what his last words were. Did he say anything? We don’t know nothing,” said Mitchell’s mother, Sonia Adams.
Back in 2015, Mitchell was arrested after stealing $5 worth of junk food from a 7-Eleven. His family says Mitchell, who suffered from schizophrenia and a bipolar disorder, mistakenly thought his dad owned the store. Mitchell died in a Portsmouth jail cell four months later.
On Wednesday, his family and lawmakers stood together calling for major reform to mental health and treatment for inmates.
“You don’t expect your child to die before you,” Sonia said.
“Jamycheal received virtually no medication for his illness while at jail,” Mitchell’s aunt, Roxanne Adams, added.
In total, lawmakers have filed nine bills aimed at improving mental health, including a bill that would make it easier for inmates to get treatment.
“This is a bipartisan effort,” Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, said. “We’re determined to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
“The governor has put $30 million in the budget to address mental health issues across the spectrum and now is the opportunity to make our voices heard,” said Senator Barbara Favola, D-Arlington.
“This is a fixable problem, it’s a fixable problem and so we call on the general assembly to please pass these bills,” said Mira Signer with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“This is a start, it’s a slow start but it’s a start and we’re thankful for that,” Roxanne said.
Mitchell’s family says they’re hoping they can prevent others from feeling their pain.
“I just don’t want this to happen to another family again. This is a hard thing to happen. This is something we will never forget. It’s something we think about every day so I just don’t want this to ever happen again,” Roxanne said.
The push for mental health funding comes as the state deals with a more than $1 billion shortfall. Mitchell’s family says they hope lawmakers will make this issue a priority.