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North Carolina Jails and Inmates with Mental Illnesses and Developmental Disabilities.


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The Governor’s Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities (GACPD), an agency of the North Carolina Department of Administration, has just released the report: "North Carolina Jails and Inmates with Mental Illnesses and Developmental Disabilities." The report examines the operation of county jails and the consequences of jail policies and procedures for the thousands of individuals with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities incarcerated on any given day in North Carolina.

According to the Chair of the GACPD, Mark Urban, "The studies demonstrate the wide diversity in policy, and resultant range of quality, in treatment of jail inmates with mental disabilities. It also highlights the challenge of coordination of care between community providers and jails, as well as the challenge of limited resources within the jails for provision of services to inmates." GACPD’s Interim Executive Director, Allison Breedlove, adds, "It is obvious that the recommendations from these studies are targeting a huge set of needs, including jail diversion programs, which prevent the inappropriate and costly incarceration of many people with MI and MR/DD who should never have been sent to jails or prisons in the first place."

The first study is by researchers Jennie Vaughn and Anna Scheyett of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work. It is based on structured interviews of jail administrators and officers and written survey responses from those with disabilities and their family members. Eighty (80) jails participated in the study. This study provides a comprehensive overview of procedures for intake screening, availability of medical and mental health providers, and possible suicides.

The companion study by Dr. Melissa Floyd Taylor of UNC-Greensboro provides a sampling of the experiences of persons with Mental Illness and Developmental Disabilities and their family members. Jail personnel and local mental health workers were also interviewed. From these semi-structured interviews, one gets a vivid picture of participant needs, concerns, and personal opinions.

"It is clear form the studies that inmates and their families and jail administrators are pleading for help," according to Rich Greb, the Chair of the GACPD Committee that advised the researchers. "The study recommendations are not an academic wish list; they are firmly grounded in common sense."

For further information on the studies or to obtain a copy of the report, please contact MT Burnette at the Governor’s Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities in Raleigh, NC, 919-733-9250 or visit our web site at http://www.gacpd.com/.

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