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Sheriff: NC needs more treatment beds for mentally ill

Posted December 17, 2015

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— Housing mentally ill inmates and transporting people for court-ordered mental evaluations is straining the budgets of sheriff's offices across North Carolina, Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said Thursday.

Peterkin, who is president of the North Carolina Sheriffs Association, said state lawmakers need to provide money to open more mental health treatment beds.

"They're trying to find ways to help us. Are they moving as fast as we would like them to? No, but we need help. It's costing a lot of money for us to have to go through what we're going through right now," he said.

North Carolina had 1,755 mental health beds available in 2001, but that had dropped to 850 beds by 2012, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

"We have to transport these patients all across the state of North Carolina," Peterkin said. "Dorothea Dix used to be the hub for a lot of it, but now, you're going to Goldsboro, all across (the state), almost to the state line to take some of these persons."

Since the closing of Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh in 2012, the state now state operates three hospitals for mental health patients: Central Regional Hospital in Butner, Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro and Broughton Mental Health Hospital in Morganton.

Central Regional needs about 400 additional beds, according to state officials.

Peterkin said inmates with mental illnesses occupy about 5 percent of the 250 beds in the Hoke County jail, and he needs more room for them. Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler said about 15 to 20 percent of the 800 beds in his detention center are occupied by people who need mental health treatment, not criminal incarceration.

"Our jail is nowhere as big as Cumberland's, but we have the same problem, the same pressure, the same strain because we have to deal with the same type of situation – transporting and looking for beds," Peterkin said.

5 Comments

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  • John Titor Dec 18, 2015
    user avatar

    There were plenty of private sector mental health companies who handled these issues a few years ago. Guess where they are now? Guess who has taken over the majority of these issues for the state? Guess who is getting rich while mental health in general has all but ceased to exist. A crying shame and shame on you corporate mental health organizations who have bought all of our politicians.. shame on you sell out politicians.. and finally shame on you sell out mental health authorities who were supposed to have the backs of these clients in need!

  • BigWillie Johnson Dec 18, 2015
    user avatar

    Wow, William still quoting 30 year old clichés. there is plenty of money on government, if we would apply private sector principles to bureaucracies. Make each agency employ 6 sigma principles, and cut their waste. Here's a simple idea that would generate cost savings and provide the money we need to have more mental health beds. on non-violent cirminals doe not kjail them, put a satellite badege monitoring on them, give them a curfew, exdpect them to work. Instead od spending money housing them in jails, they will be working and generating tax revenue. Thereby you have saved the cost of jailing people, and could better spend that money on mental health beds. But for some it is easier to criticize and spout, outdated clichés then come up with solutions. The problem is not a revenue problem, it is an inefficiency and priority problem in government.

  • William Patterson Dec 18, 2015
    user avatar

    the GOP hero Ronald Ray-gun in an order to pinch the pennies of the poor opened the doors to the mental hospitals and kicked them all out into the streets....this increased crime and helped usher in the police state we are all enjoying .....

  • LetsBeFair Dec 18, 2015

    smart man

  • Charlotte Baggett Dec 17, 2015
    user avatar

    take my tax dollars and address the mental health epidemic.....