D.C. report finds agencies fell short in helping mentally ill resident

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Capital Land,Liz Farmer

A D.C. inspector general report this week found that city social services had a tough case with former resident Theodoric James — who was found dead in his home last year — but they could have done more.

James, a White House employee for nearly 50 years and who'd served under 10 presidents, retired in 2009. He quickly deteriorated mentally, withdrew from family and friends and became a hoarder. The 71-year-old was found dead in him home last August, covered in his own urine and in the same clothes he'd worn for the last 2 1/2 years.

A report released this week by the Office of the Inspector General acknowledged James' "total lack of cooperation" but said the city’s bureaucracy hindered the process. The report, among other things, recommends changing D.C. law to make it easier for social services to involuntarily commit a resident who is endangering himself. The report suggests a change similar to the one Virginia's General Assembly made when it changed the phrase "imminent danger to oneself or others" to:

"The person has a mental illness and there is a substantial likelihood that, as a result of mental illness, the person will, in the near future,
(1) cause serious physical harm to himself or others as evidenced by recent behavior causing, attempting, or threatening harm and other relevant information, if any, OR
(2) suffer serious harm due to his lack of capacity to protect himself from harm or to provide for his basic human needs."

The report also found that Adult Protective Services had not been aware of all James' hospitalizations or emergency services calls (including seven calls and five hospitalizations in one month in 2010). It said APS could have done a more thorough job in arguing its case to take on guardionship of James, but its reports were incomplete.

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Liz Farmer

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner