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Report highlights failures in mental health care leading to suicide at Cayuga County Jail

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

A recent report by the New York State Commission of Correction has found significant lapses in mental health care at the Cayuga County Jail, which may have contributed to the suicide of Fred Williams, a 35-year-old inmate. Williams was found unresponsive on November 24, 2022, and later pronounced dead at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse.

The Citizen obtained the report and published its findings over the weekend, which indicates that Williams, arrested on June 23, 2022, for third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, showed signs of severe mental distress during his incarceration. Despite multiple threats of self-harm and requests for psychiatric medications, the report states that Williams did not receive adequate psychiatric assessment or treatment.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

The Medical Review Board cited in the report criticized the failure of Cayuga County Mental Health to provide continuity of care. They noted that Williams’ mental health records from the state Office of Mental Health and the Cayuga County Community Mental Health Center were not reviewed, leading to a lack of proper diagnosis and treatment.

As a response to the findings, Cayuga County officials have implemented several improvements in jail mental health services. These include the introduction of psychiatric nurse practitioners, the hiring of additional social workers, the establishment of a mental health support staff, and the implementation of a new referral process for psychiatric care.