|NAPA — More than
100 patients, including suspects awaiting trial and defendants
who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity, sit on a
waiting list to be admitted to Napa State Hospital, which is
already above capacity.
A county deputy public defender says her client has been
languishing in Marin County Jail for nearly four months after
being declared mentally incompetent to stand trial on
attempted rape charges.
“They sit here for a long time,” public defender Deborah
Lewis said after a recent court hearing. “We need to get more
hospitals but nobody wants to fund it.”
Her client, William Velkoso, is schizophrenic and has been
ordered to Napa State Hospital for treatment, but the facility
has no available beds.
It is one of four state hospitals that house about 1,000
mentally ill patients.
The transfer of a mentally incompetent defendant from
county jail typically takes several weeks, Lewis said. With
the backlog, suspects are waiting months.
“His rights are being violated,” Lewis said of Velkoso.
“It’s really a lose-lose situation for anyone. They can’t get
a speedy trial because we can’t get them to the hospital to
get ready for trial.”
Kirsten McIntyre, a spokeswoman for the state Department of
Mental Health, said hospitals are doing everything they can to
make more room for patients.
“The trouble is there is a cap on how many patients we can
have,” McIntyre said. “If we don’t have the space, we don’t
have the space.”
The embattled Napa hospital is undergoing a series of
changes after a recent scathing U.S. Department of Justice
report that found systemic problems at several state
hospitals, including patients who overdosed on illegal drugs
or were left for up to 12 hours in soiled diapers.
Stephen Mayberg, the head of the state Department of Mental
Health, assured officials that the problems are being
addressed during testimony last month before a state Senate
Among other things, the Justice Department report found
that some patients went as long as four weeks without a bath
at the Napa hospital. One patient strangled his roommate,
another assaulted other patients at least 20 times in five
months, and several patients hanged themselves, the report