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State Expands Mental Health Services for Probationers

Six North Carolina counties will have have increased access to mental health training and treatment for probationers. Credit: hotblackmorguefile.com
Six North Carolina counties will have have increased access to mental health training and treatment for probationers. Credit: hotblackmorguefile.com
November 9, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. – According to a report by the Urban Institute, more than half of North Carolina's prisoners have a mental health problem.

To help address those issues, six counties are expanding mental health services for probationers with almost $700,000 in federal money.

Lao Rupert, director of the Carolina Justice Policy Center, says the mental health problems don't go away when those inmates are released.

"Mental health services are extremely important to people on probation and of course in prison," she states. "And traditionally probation hasn't been educated in mental health services, so this is an extremely important step and we're pleased to see it happen."

The program is already in existence in Wake and Sampson counties, and Rupert says though it's too early to have quantitative data, there are anecdotes of success.

It will now be expanded to Brunswick, McDowell, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Orange and Durham counties to offer training to probation officers to better handle mental health and substance abuse problems.

The Urban Institute report examined a similar program in San Diego and found that program participants were less likely to return to jail, and the impact lasted well after the program ended.

Rupert says aside from better equipping probationers to deal with mental health issues, their communities also benefit.

"All of us are going to be safer if people in our communities or in our institutions are correctly diagnosed, particularly if they have mental illnesses,” she stresses. “It will make individuals more productive. It just will really just help the entire society."

In addition to the expansion of these services, the Department of Public Safety has also secured funds to reduce recidivism among its offender population.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC