Man stuck in Clay County jail with schizophrenia transferred to hospital after Star report

A man who was stuck in the Clay County Detention Center waiting for a hospital bed to open up for more than a year and a half has been transferred to a state-operated mental health hospital just days after The Star highlighted his case.

Derrick Williams, 47, who has schizophrenia according to his attorney, was transported to Fulton State Hospital last Thursday, according to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. The Missouri Department of Mental Health operates the hospital, which is located about 25 miles southeast of Columbia.

The decision to transfer Williams out of jail and to a mental health facility came just four days after The Star revealed that he was was one of 253 people languishing in jails across Missouri who have been found unfit to stand trial but can’t be sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment because of a shortage of beds and lack of staffing.

The story was part of The Star’s “Broken Government” series, which investigates ways in which government has failed to work for residents of Missouri and Kansas, including people in jail with mental health issues.

While Williams was able to get transferred, there are still hundreds of people with mental health issues stuck in jail waiting to be placed in a state-operated mental health facility.

Williams had been in jail since January 2022 waiting for a hospital bed to open up. Both Williams’ mother and Clay County law enforcement pointed to The Star’s coverage in the wake of the transfer.

Patricia Tatum, Williams’ mother who had been trying to get her son moved out of jail and to a hospital, thanked The Star for highlighting her son’s story in a text to a reporter.

“I want to thank you because I’m convinced that you were instrumental in this move,” Tatum wrote in the text message.

Sarah Boyd, a spokesperson for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, said in an email to The Star that Williams’ transfer was “good news.”

“Thank you for shining a light on his case and the issue as a whole,” she said in the email. A spokesperson for DMH said they could not confirm or deny Williams’ transfer due to HIPAA, which prohibits health care providers from disclosing certain information.

Williams had been in jail on charges of robbery and armed criminal action after allegedly stealing a belt from a Walmart in Clay County. A judge last year ruled that Williams was not competent enough to stand trial “as a result of mental disease or defect” and should receive treatment at a mental health facility.

The story revealed a crisis for individuals in jail with mental health issues. They are often stuck in limbo in which their legal cases can’t progress until they get treated for their mental illness. And they can’t get treatment until a spot opens up at a hospital.

Many individuals wait months, sometimes more than a year, to get moved to a hospital where they can get treatment. Their mental health deteriorates in the process, The Star found.