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Jamycheal Mitchell's Family Cheers Reforms

The family of Jamycheal Mitchell say they have been gratified to see mental-health reforms move through the legislature this year. (the Mitchell family/Youtube)
The family of Jamycheal Mitchell say they have been gratified to see mental-health reforms move through the legislature this year. (the Mitchell family/Youtube)
February 27, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. -- The state's General Assembly has taken a number of steps to strengthen Virginia's mental health services. And the family of Jamycheal Mitchell has said it was deeply gratifying to see the reforms.

Mitchell was the young mentally ill man who was arrested for stealing $5 worth of snacks from a convenience store, but died in a Hampton Roads jail under mysterious circumstances.

Before the end of the legislative session, Mitchell's aunt Roxanne Adams said as long as they don't know what happened in the jail, they will never have closure. But she also said they came to Richmond to lobby on behalf of the many other mentally ill people incarcerated in the state.

"I don't want my nephew to have been through this in vain,” Adams said. "You just don't know how we felt when we were there in Richmond; so many senators and delegates pushing forward and trying to make these bills happen."

The General Assembly voted to expand resources for communities to treat people with mental illnesses, and to improve the screening of people who have been arrested and are headed to the jails.

Mitchell's mother, Sonia Adams, said that's a big deal for them. Mitchell was supposed to be transferred to a mental facility but remained in jail because of a paperwork error.

Sonia Adams said part of what was so frustrating for them was that the system didn't work. They were not allowed to make contact with Jamycheal, and she said jail officials should have seen to it that a mentally ill person like him was sent to a mental hospital.

"Instead of taking them and putting them in jail, take time to find out what's going on with them,” she said. "So that would be real nice; instead of just sending them to jail, send them to the hospital and see if they can help first."

This year's session of the General Assembly ended over the weekend.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA