He experienced a mental health crisis. So why was he taken from the hospital to jail?

Posted at 6:32 PM, Mar 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 09:46:57-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- When Henrico Police identified that Ivro Otieno was experiencing a mental health crisis on March 3, they executed an Emergency Custody Order (ECO) and took him to a hospital. However, at some point during that hospital visit, police opted to charge Otieno and move him away from the support offered at the hospital, moving him instead to the jail.

Officials said Otieno was "physically assaultive" toward officers at the hospital which is why they arrested him and transported him to Henrico County West jail.

Henrico Police first encountered Otieno when they responded to a call at a home on Fordson Rd at 11:34 a.m. on March 3 for a possible burglary call. Officers identified Otieno as a potential suspect, and a spokesperson for Henrico Police said they used their Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to identify that he was experiencing a mental health crisis.

In response, they issued an ECO and transported him to the Crisis Receiving Center at Henrico Doctors Hospital.

Once there, Otieno would have been met by the hospital's psychiatric team and medical team, according to Doctor Martin Buxton, the former Chief of Psychiatry at Chippenham and Johnston-Willis Hospitals.

"Somebody would try to calm them or talk them down," Buxton said.

Buxton, who is unconnected to this case, said that if that did not work and the person was combative, the staff would have restrained them.

"If somebody was violent, and you could not slow them down, and they were tearing up the emergency room, you would restrain them and try to medicate them," Buxton said.

In this case, Henrico Police said Otieno became "physically assaultive" toward officers at the hospital, so they arrested him and transported him to jail. They charged him with assault on a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct in a hospital, and vandalism.

Irvo Otieno

CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Buxton if, in a situation where a patient is combative, the staff at the hospital would have tried to put a drug in him that would have calmed him.

He said "no question."

CBS 6 does not know if the hospital staff did or did not give or attempt to give him a calming medication.

Mark Bong, who used to work in law enforcement and is currently an attorney in Henrico who often represents police officers, said he wonders why the officers decided the best course of action was to take Otieno to jail.

"Somebody who is in a hospital setting and then is placed in a jail setting is probably getting insufficient treatments, especially on the weekend. The availability of medication and treatment are going to be greatly reduced in a jail environment than they would be in a hospital environment," Bong said.

"Jails are clearly not the optimal place for psych patients, they can be retraumatized, stirred up, the lack of capacity to sleep, all the things that go against mental health," Buxton said.

Buxton said it's possible there were no psychiatric beds available at Henrico Doctors or other hospitals.

"Was there a bed at Forest? If not, were they trying to get another bed in town and they couldn't find one? And whether Central State had a bed?" Buxton asked. "They may have decided they couldn't manage him there, or they didn't have a bed there or there was no psych bed available in town. That happens."

CBS 6 reached out to a variety of entities in Henrico County, including police and mental health services, about what exactly happened in this situation, and are waiting to hear back.

Depend on CBS 6 News and for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email to send a tip.



Watch 'The Jennifer Hudson Show' weekdays at 3 p.m. on CBS 6!

📱 Download CBS 6 News App
The app features breaking news alerts, live video, weather radar, traffic incidents, closings and delays and more.