Mental Wards

Mental health care for jail inmates is woeful, commissioner says

It became clear after Dr. Bray and a psychologist finally did visit the inmate, Vatz wrote, "that any progress made in the period immediately following [Trujillo's] incarceration had been all but lost. . . . Unfortunately, rather than follow-up services, [Trujillo] received nothing from CHS."

Vatz cited the testimony of Judy Pease, a CHS counselor in the maximum-security unit, who said she'd been working last summer "literally on her own."

No psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse or co-worker was available to assist her, Pease testified, and things got so bad, Pease testified, "that Dr. Bray was giving orders regarding renewing, changing or stopping medications without even seeing defendants. There was insufficient staff to see if inmates . . . were taking their medications or even coming out of their cells to get them."

From left, Robert Marstella, Santos Silva and Rafael Trujillo.
photos courtesy of Maricopa County Sheriff's Offic
From left, Robert Marstella, Santos Silva and Rafael Trujillo.

The commissioner also wrote of Dr. Kevin Hoffert, a psychiatrist in the Durango unit who testified he was quitting CHS after 11 years of service because of "artistic differences." By that, Hoffert said he was referring to what he considered the gravely diminished standards of care to the jail's mentally ill inmates.

Bray agreed during the hearing that CHS has been underfunded and understaffed. But she testified that the inmates in question were receiving "reasonable" treatment under the circumstances.

Another longtime CHS psychiatrist, Leonardo Garcia-Bunuel, told Vatz of the harmful effects of Maricopa County's jailhouse environment on the mentally ill, and noted that inmates are "likely to experience increased symptoms of depression, paranoia and delusions."

Unfortunately, Garcia-Bunuel tells New Times, "things are not getting any better yet. The inmates are still housed in the same conditions. As far as getting them to a level of, quote, competency to stand trial, you can teach most of them to mouth the right words like you can teach a parrot to talk. But you still have not treated the underlying illness. I wish the public would understand that."

E-mail paul.rubin@newtimes.com, or call 602-229-8433.

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