Virginia jail psychiatrist resigns after 'drastic and unbelievable' demands from higher-ups

Matthew Sachs, MD, a former psychiatrist at Norfolk (Va.) Jail, resigned in the wake of being asked to engage in what he said were "drastic and unbelievable" practices that would endanger inmate health, local news source WTKR reported May 9.

During his six-month tenure, Dr. Sachs told WTKR that some inmates were illicitly using drugs they were prescribed. In response, he made changes in an attempt to combat such use, but was met with opposition from some inmates, and complaints were made to jail leadership.

Dr. Sachs said he was pressured to increase the patients he was seeing per day to between 50 and 55 inmates in a span of nine hours, and that psychiatric medications were being overprescribed.

"I had to increase my quota 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," Dr. Sachs told WTKR

After reporting concerns to his third-party contractor, WellPath, and the chief of staff at the jail, he chose to resign in April, amid threats to end WellPath's contract 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," Dr. Sachs said.

In response to an article published in The Virginian-Pilot about the issue, Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron ordered an investigation into Norfolk City Jail's mental health program, The The Virginian-Pilot reported May 10. In a statement to the publication, the sheriff's office said Mr. Baron was not made aware of Dr. Sachs' concerns until the Pilot reached out. 

"Any such concerns would have been welcomed," the statement read.

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