Mom of man who jumped off I-10 overpass: He didn't have to die

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX - A devastated mother says her son’s life did not have to end on Wednesday.

Jay Joachim tried to get help for his mental illness, but his mother says he was turned away not from just one, but two facilities.    

Sheri George says her son’s life did not have to end. “He had become despondent and hopeless." That led to 28-year-old Jay Joachim jumping from the overpass at 91st Avenue onto the Interstate 10 freeway below.  He later died at the hospital.

Sheri tells 3TV, “He was begging for help and he couldn't get it. He needed help from professionals."

Two and a half weeks ago Sheri says she and Jay went to St. Luke's Behavioral Health Center to check him into an in-patient mental health program where she says they were told a bed was being reserved for him but first he had to undergo a mental evaluation.

Sheri explains, "He went in for approximately 15 or 20 minutes and he came out and...his face was...fallen and he said that they told him that they felt that he had meth-induced psychosis and that he was not bad enough to warrant a bed."

Sheri and Jay were then referred to a similar facility in town. Sheri says, "They told him they were not able to give him a bed. They felt that he was not bad enough but that they would give him prescription."

Jay was diagnosed with depression and another mood disorder called Dysthymia when he was 17 and later, with generalized anxiety. Jay also started using methamphetamine several years ago, which further turned his world upside-down.

St. Luke's Behavioral Health Center issued the following statement:
"Our hearts go out to this family and we are sorry for their loss. Our intake process is thorough and conducted by trained, experienced professional counselors.  Any person who presents for treatment is given an evaluation to determine if they meet criteria for admission. If that person does not meet criteria for admission, they will be provided with a plan for continuation of care and further evaluation."

Sheri tells 3TV she has been in touch with the hospital's CEO who assures her he is looking into what happened.