Mentally ill inmate's hospital bills cost jail about $75,000

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - According to Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody, about $75,000 of city taxpayer money is going to a jail inmate's medical bills. He believes that money and other expenses like it, doesn't need to be spent.

The issue here surrounds mental health treatment. This inmate was arrested on a minor trespassing charge. He came to the jail with severe mental issues, which we're told resulted in those medical bills.

According to Sheriff Woody, this is just one example of a larger problem. He says jail is no place for the mentally ill.

"These people need to be treated," he explained. "They need to be put in the right place. They don't need to be put in jail."

But he says late last month, one of them was. Jail staff noticed some problems with the inmate. He was seen by medical staff and over two weeks went back and forth between the jail and the hospital.

"The patient in the residence is getting worse," Woody added. "They don't get better. We cannot force them to take their medication by law."

We've learned that man had such severe mental issues he began chewing his hand, got gangrene and had to have part or all of it amputated. The resulting medical bills add up to about $75,000.

NBC12 looked into what that money could have been used for. $75,000 could buy the jail two security equipped vans used to transport inmates all over the state. Oddly enough, two of them are out of service right now. It also could've paid for two staff positions in jail records or operations.

If it were up to Sheriff Woody, alternative programs like the mental health docket would have kicked in, getting these kinds of inmates the help they need before they ever get to his door.

"He would not have came here that particular night," Woody said of this inmate. "Even if he went to the hospital, he would have gone to a facility where they can evaluate him."

That inmate is now at Central State Hospital.

The mental health docket is in place in the Richmond court system, but the sheriff believes it needs to be expanded to be effective.

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