By Prue Salasky, email@example.com | 757-247-4784
7:14 PM EDT, May 5, 2013
On April 29, Wanda Yvonne Parks buried her oldest son, Jason Daniel Tully, 25. Tully had struggled with mental illness since age 11, when he was first diagnosed with severe depression. He was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder and finally schizoaffective disorder. "He suffered terribly from his mental illness, but he had a heart of gold. He wasn't treated right. And it's the same for others," said Parks.
Tully had been in the custody of Hampton City Jail for three days awaiting a hearing when he collapsed. He was transported to Sentara CarePlex hospital where he was pronounced dead 30 minutes later. An investigation into his death by the Hampton Police Department is ongoing, according to the Sheriff's Office, which is conducting an internal review. The medical cause and manner of death are still pending according to the state's medical examiner's office.
Parks describes her son as physically healthy but as having a severe mental illness. She wants to see a change in resources for those with a mental illness. "You cannot find a boarding home. You cannot find a hospital to keep them long enough. They end up in jail, they're put in isolation, which makes their condition worse," said Parks, a retired social worker for community services boards in Hampton-Newport News and the Middle Peninsula.
Parks estimates that her son went through 30 hospitalizations in the course of his illness. At age 17, he spent eight months in a residential psychiatric hospital in Petersburg, she said. More recently, while serving a one-year sentence at Hampton Roads Regional Jail, he received intermittent treatment at Eastern State Hospital, a state mental health facility in James City County.
A couple of months ago he was released from jail direct to Riverside Behavioral Health in Hampton. Sometime after his discharge from that facility, he was admitted to Maryview Hospital in Portsmouth, according to Parks. "The hospitals don't keep these people long enough," she said, saying that on one occasion, within an hour of being released, he was hearing voices and psychotic. "He wasn't ready to be released," she insisted. These hospitalizations of a few days don't work and there aren't sufficient beds at Eastern State for those who need long-term placement, she added.
Tully's mental illness was controlled by various drugs — including risperidone and depakote — at different times. However, it still got him in trouble, said Parks, reiterating her concern about jails putting those with mental illnesses in isolation, while other inmates have more social interaction and activities. The Hampton Sheriff's Office confirmed in an email that Tully was being held in isolation prior to his collapse at the city jail. According to Alonzo Cherry, public information officer for the sheriff's office, the Community Services Board conducted a mental health assessment on Tully on April 25, the day he died, and he was taking psychotropic drugs while in the jail.
"I don't get the isolation. There needs to be a change. I just want to help others. Most people don't speak out. I know I'm not the only one going through this," said Parks, who has seen the effects of isolation from the perspective of a parent and also as a professional case manager. "You see it in their eyes. They're all alone."
To read the Daily Press series on jail and inmates diagnosed with a mental illness, go to http://www.dailypress.com/health/dp-nws-mental-jail-0313-4-20130322,0,3159294.story
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