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Mentally ill inmates languish in jail
The Associated Press
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.

County jail

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.

Problems addressed

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 committee.

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 said.

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