'I couldn’t be part of what he was asking me to do': Norfolk Jail psychiatrist explains resignation

I-Team investigates Norfolk Jail
Posted at 5:21 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-10 10:28:50-04

NORFOLK, Va. - A psychiatrist who worked at the Norfolk Jail said he resigned because he claims he was being asked to engage in dangerous practices that would be putting the health of inmates at risk.

Dr. Matthew Sachs said he worked at the jail for six months as a psychiatrist.

He said when first hired, he was trying to reduce the amount of drug abuse that was going on in the jail.

He said certain inmates were being prescribed drugs and abusing them.

He said he implemented changes to try and curb the abuse. He said certain inmates did not like the restrictions and said there were complaints made to jail leadership.

Dr. Sachs said he was also told he needed to increase the number of patients he was seeing several weeks ago.

“I had to increase my quote in such a drastic and unbelievable way that it was logistically impossible, and even if it were possible, it was the most dangerous idea that I’ve heard of since I started to practice,” said Dr. Sachs.

He said too many of the inmates are overly prescribed strong medications for things like schizophrenia. 

He said he was being asked to treat between 50 and 55 inmates in a nine-hour span. 

He said he reported concerns to the third-party contractor he worked for, WellPath, along with the Chief of the Staff at the jail.

He said he decided to resign at the end of April after expressing his concerns, and threats were made to end the contract they had with the jail.

“I couldn’t be part of what he was asking me to do. There wasn’t any way I was going to meet the expectation and be able to sleep well at night. I knew this is a time bomb that was going to go off. It was going to be a bad outcome,” said Dr. Sachs.

The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office issued the following statement regarding this issue:

Yesterday, The Virginian-Pilot ran an article wherein claims were made about prescription drug use inside the Norfolk City Jail. The claims were made by a doctor who was employed by WellPath, the jail’s medical and mental health provider, to provide psychiatric services for inmates in our care. The doctor resigned from his position on April 28, 2022 during a meeting with WellPath supervisors who work inside the Norfolk City Jail and Lt. Col. Handley.

Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron has a well-established open-door policy for anyone with concerns related to the operations of the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Baron welcomes any opportunity presented to him directly to address concerns or embrace new ideas.

On April 28, 2022, Dr. Sachs resigned abruptly from providing services at the Norfolk City Jail. Prior to his resignation, Dr. Sachs had not brought any operational concerns to the attention of Sheriff Baron. Any such concerns would have been welcomed.

Sheriff Baron first became aware of Dr. Sachs’ specific concerns when his office was contacted by a news reporter. Currently, the only information the Sheriff’s Office has is based on the assertions of the reporter. Without more direct information, the Sheriff has ordered a broad review of medical and mental health operations to ensure compliance with our commitment to excellence in the care of our inmates.

The Sheriff will reserve any further comments on the matter until a review can be completed to ascertain the veracity of the representations made by Dr. Sachs as asserted by news representatives. The Sheriff is open to a meeting with Dr. Sachs to hear first-hand the doctor’s concerns so that any review can become more focused.

The NSO is proud to be certified in our health care operations by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) and that our policies and procedures live up to the standards and expectations of this nationally recognized organization.

Dr. Sachs said he didn’t know the chain of command at the jail told the people he thought were in charge and was met with resistance.

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