August 08, 2001
Legislator calls for wider investigation of jail's mental health unit
By John-Henry Doucette
The Times Herald-Record
Middletown ² An oversight committee, looking at the Orange County Jail's mental health unit, should widen its scope, one of its members said yesterday.
Legislator Jeffrey Berkman, D-Middletown, is part of a committee juggling inquiries into allegations of abuse of mentally ill inmates and records theft.
Mental Health Commissioner Chris Ashman and members of his staff have addressed the committee. Berkman would like to speak with others connected to the unit.
"I don't think it's sufficient to just speak with the commissioner," Berkman said.
So last week he sent a memo to Legislator M. William Lahey, R-New Windsor, who is chairman of the committee. Lahey said Berkman may be casting too wide a net. Berkman is seeking meetings with medical staff at the jail, inmates and two nurses fired after attempting to report mistreatment at the unit, among other things.
"To the extent the committee wants to look at pieces of (Berkman's) request," Lahey said, "we'll do that."
State correction officials will visit the unit this month.
Lahey awaits their findings.
"If there's a problem there now," he said, "we want to fix it."
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