The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Mecklenburg Sheriff’s Office are partnering together to offer a new service at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center. The program serves defendants with a mental illness for whom the court has determined they are Incapable to Proceed (ITP) to trial.
Starting on Dec. 7, 2022, eligible defendants in the Mecklenburg County Detention Center began receiving capacity restoration services, which include behavioral health treatment, education about the court process and coordination of general health care. With financial support from the Governor’s Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force, this program is the first capacity restoration program in a detention center in North Carolina and is part of a comprehensive plan to offer capacity restoration services at all levels of care, including in the community.
North Carolina’s new program, called NC RISE, begins providing capacity restoration services once a criminal defendant is deemed ITP by the court which allows the individual to more quickly proceed through the court system. Otherwise, ITP defendants would linger unnecessarily in the detention center, waiting for admission to one of the three state psychiatric hospitals – currently, the only source of capacity restoration services in the state.
"There is a nationwide crisis in this country whereby states and their hospitals are overwhelmed with ITP patients needing capacity restoration," said Dr. Robert Cochrane, Director of Forensic Services for the Division of State Operated Healthcare Facilities. "Our facilities struggle to meet the need of both ITP patients and all other patients needing the complex psychiatric and medical care available in a state psychiatric hospital. Innovative and cost-effective alternatives are necessary in addressing the demand of the entire population."
This detention center-based restoration program in Mecklenburg County will provide an array of services, including psychiatric care, individual and group counseling, psychoeducation and targeted case management. It will allow clinical care to be provided in a more responsive setting, reduce unnecessary admissions to state psychiatric hospitals and provide greater access to treatment. It can also prevent the need for hospitalization and lead to a quicker resolution of criminal charges.
NCDHHS awarded a contract to Wellpath Recovery Solutions to implement the NC RISE program at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center. NC RISE provides capacity restoration and behavioral health services to individuals who cannot be discharged to a community provider.
"Wellpath Recovery Solutions is honored to partner with NCDHHS and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office to implement the North Carolina RISE Program, which will increase access to care for individuals with mental illness," said Jeremy Barr, President of Wellpath Recovery Solutions. "We look forward to a long partnership and providing more timely access to care to those in need."
Increasing access to treatment and capacity restoration services addresses one of NCDHHS’s top priorities — behavioral health and resilience. NCDHHS hopes this will be the first of several detention center and community-based capacity restoration pilot programs throughout the state. Prioritizing the behavioral health needs of individuals awaiting trial will not only resolve the legal charges of detainees but will strengthen the legal and mental health systems of North Carolina.