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Disability Rights NC requests order to cut wait times for mental health care in jail


Inmates with mental illness often wait months for care to give them a shot at being deemed capable to assist in their defense. Disability Rights North Carolina wants a judge to order the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to take immediate steps to drastically reduce those times.  

Disability Rights sued the state health department in April saying that long waits for mental health care violate incarcerated people’s civil rights. This week the group asked a judge to issue an injunction ordering the state to start the process of restoring an inmate’s mental capacity within14 days. That’s in line with what federal courts have ruled. It’s also a drastic reduction in current wait times. DHHS says those average 159 days.

The request cites testimony from the Director of the University of Virginia’s Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy Daniel Murrie. He made recommendations, including offering community-based capacity restoration programs, like those in Mecklenburg and Wake counties, across the state, developing a triage system, and allowing inmates awaiting treatment to start taking medication in jail.

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.