I was saddened to read the detailed account of the death of a mentally ill person, Mr. Bill Williams, that occurred Sept. 14, 2012. The description of Mr. Williams, in the article in the Aug. 25 Herald, in my opinion, made it clear that he was suffering from extreme psychotic agitation, which is a medical emergency; instead of being Tased and handcuffed, he should have received emergency medical care.
I was a psychiatrist working part-time at the Snohomish County Jail from 2006 until 2010. During that time the mental health team provided, with the help of excellent correctional officers and motivated by professional pride, very good mental health care. However, in 2010 it was decided to save money and this outstanding team of mental health providers was decimated. It does not take a study by the U.S. Department of Justice to see that the result was a deterioration in the quality of mental health care. This deterioration is evidenced by the tip of the iceberg which is the unacceptable (or maybe it is acceptable) number of inmate deaths since that time.
It is my opinion that the court should appoint a master with the authority to direct the county administration to provide the funding for adequate mental health care for our most vulnerable citizens. Our outpatient clinics are overwhelmed and this results in a flow of mentally ill people into our jails and prisons. I believe that the unremitting pressure on public officials to “do more with less” has resulted in inadequate funding to provide for our community mental health needs. We need the court to step in and direct the necessary funding to meet our moral and legal obligations.
Thomas W. Greisamer, M.D.