A Carrabelle man who works as a case manager for the Apalachee Center stands accused of having sexual relations with a female client with a history of mental health issues.
Jim McLeod Mitchell, 58, of Carrabelle, was arrested May 8 for sexual misconduct by a psychotherapist. He was released from the Franklin County Jail May 10 after he posted a $25,000 bond.
On May 8, the alleged victim complained to the sheriff’s office that she had been sexually assaulted by Mitchell a week prior. Investigators set up surveillance at her home to record the anticipated sexual liaison that evening between her and Mitchell, her case manager at the Apalachee Center in Apalachicola.
A news release from the sheriff’s office said Investigator Ronnie Jones deployed several surveillance cameras throughout the victim’s home before the case worker arrived. Law enforcement officials were aware the victim is on disability for mental health issues that include multiple personality disorder.
According to the report filed by Investigator Brett Johnson, the woman had been Mitchell’s client for three weeks. He had begun by making sexual remarks to her, she told detectives, and then this advanced to touching each other, and then moved on to a sexual encounter, the details of which the woman told detectives she could not recall precisely.
She recalled to officers that Mitchell had driven her to her probation officer, and then home, where he asked to come inside and see the personality that emerged when the woman was either angry or under the influence of alcohol.
On May 8, when Mitchell arrived under surveillance to her home, he began questioning her about telling anyone what occurred between them. He then asked if her other personality would talk, because he could get in trouble with law enforcement and lose his job, wrote the probable cause affidavit.
The video shows Mr. Mitchell enter the victim’s bedroom, completely undress, and get into bed. The victim then made an excuse to exit the room and allowed law enforcement inside her home. Sgt. Timmy Register entered the bedroom, placed Mitchell in custody, and transported him to the Franklin County Investigations Office.
Johnson said Mitchell was read his rights and agreed to speak with officers about his involvement with the victim. He acknowledged knowing the victim suffers from multiple personality disorder, and that having a sexual relationship with a client could lead to his termination or arrest.
The news release said Mitchell was “aware of certain vices that trigger different personalities in the victim and provided her with one of those vices on the day of the incident.”
At the first arraignment via video link to the courthouse, Mitchell was assigned Kevin Steiger, the assistant public defender who represents Franklin County. Steiger said Tuesday he would ask to be removed from the case and have it reassigned to conflict counsel, because he represented the victim in the past.
While Mitchell is not a licensed mental health counselor, the role of a case worker can be broad and multifaceted, and falls under the category of psychotherapy, detectives believe. In his report, Johnson noted Mitchell’s job description included assessing client needs, conducting psychosocial evaluations, treatment plans, maintaining daily progress notes and “monitoring all aspects of client care.”
Jay Reeve, Ph.D., a psychologist who has served as Apalachee’s CEO for the past five years, said Mitchell was suspended immediately after the arrest, and terminated Tuesday following an internal investigation.
“Apalachee Center internal policy forbids any form of sexual contact with clients,” said Reeve. “We have a strong interest in how this plays out in the courts because it looks to me like some significant client exploitation was going on. I don’t feel there could have been any possibility of misunderstanding.
“We’ve always got a strong interest in making sure our clients are protected,” he said. “Apalachee has a very strong zero tolerance policy for anything that points to client exploitation. How that intersects with the law of the land I’m not sure.”
Police said Mitchell told them he worked in the mental health field for about 15 years. Reeve said Mitchell worked fewer than 10 months for the center, the first time for two months, and most recently beginning Oct. 30, 2012. The CEO said he met the requirement of holding a bachelor’s degree in a human service related field and a year of experience working with those in recovery from mental illness.
Also, Reeve said, prior to beginning work at the center Mitchell passed a Level 2 background screening, which is a fingerprint-based criminal background check processed by the FBI's National Crime Information Center
“I have seen no evidence so far with any problem with his work record over the last six months,” said Reeve. “In the areas where he was evaluated, he was performing his job according to standard. He never gave evidence of job performance difficulties.”
In Johnson’s affidavit, there is a note that the police video recorded Mitchell talking about handling, or seeking to handle, the woman’s Social Security check. The woman said the case worker had also handled her Food Stamp card, because Mitchell had told her “she can’t manage her money.” The charge Mitchell faces contains no reference to any type of financial fraud.
Reeve said that he had not seen the entire police report, but said it was common for case managers to intervene in financial matters for troubled clients. “Case managers on frequent occasions will help them handle money and help them connect with resources such as Food Stamps and Social Security,” he said.
Reeve said the Apalachee center serves about 6,000 clients annually across its eight-county catchment area, and that in the prior fiscal year, served 141 clients in Franklin County for a range of mental health issues. “Anything from depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia,” said Reeve. “We concentrate more on severe issues.”
He said the center is looking to hire a replacement for Mitchell. “The program supervisor will be making arrangements as rapidly as we can,” said Reeve. “We have folks filling in so treatment can treatment can continue unabated.”