Unthinkable. Inhumane. How could this have happened? There should be no shortage of outrage over the revelation that a mentally ill prisoner in Alexander County died of thirst while in custody. The incident happened in March, but the autopsy was just released on Thursday. A much more thorough public accounting is in order.

Most of the custodians responsible for his care were fired or resigned, but the Department of Public Safety refused to provide the medical examiner with pertinent details such as when the man last had access to food and water and other information that could help determine whether his mental and physical disabilities contributed to his death.

That also leaves open the question of whether criminal charges may be warranted.

Michael Anthony Kerr was another tragic victim in what has become a familiar story. Our police forces, jails and prisons by default become the primary points of contact for people failed by an inadequate mental health system. These institutions are ill-equipped to provide the kind of care needed, and in many cases the crimes for which these people are incarcerated are the result of untreated mental conditions.

Kerr, 54, was serving a 31-year sentence as a habitual felon after a 2011 conviction of illegally possessing and discharging a firearm, according to The Associated Press. His record included a string of larceny convictions. His sister said she’d been pleading with prison officials to help her brother, who for unspecified disciplinary reasons was in solitary confinement in a room the inmates referred to as “The Hole.”

He had “significant” mental and physical disabilities, according to correspondence between state agencies this past spring. Kerr was found dead in a van in March on the way to Central Prison’s psychiatric unit.

Mentally ill inmates pose a danger to themselves and to others, and if they are housed in our prisons they must be monitored closely. It is inconceivable that no one noticed whether Kerr was getting food and water, or whether he was showing signs of dehydration. Did they just forget about him?

Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry promised a thorough investigation, yet has released no information. Even the state medical examiner wasn’t given enough information to help her determine whether Kerr’s death should be classified as an accident, natural causes or homicide. Gov. Pat McCrory should demand that the details be released.

While this death may be an extreme example of negligence, to say the least, our jails and prisons house many people who should be cared for by trained mental health professionals in a setting that emphasizes treatment rather than punishment. Locally we have seen many examples of what happens when community mental health services are lacking or unavailable; often law enforcement and our penal institutions end up charged with a job they are not equipped to do.

But it is unconscionable that any inmate in the state’s care be allowed to die for a lack of water, a basic need.

Published: Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 11:34 p.m.

Copyright © 2014 StarNewsOnline.com — All rights reserved. Restricted use only.

Click here to access the original article.

Have you ever struggled with addiction or mental illness? Can you imagine what it is like having both? And what happens when just as you feel the world slipping away, you fall in love with the one person who seems to offer redemption? Matthew Peters’s new book, Conversations Among Ruins, takes readers into the heart and mind of a man on the brink of losing everything and finding it all. It is a portrait of a descent into madness, and the potential of attaining salvation there.
While in detox, Daniel Stavros, a young, dual diagnosed* professor meets and falls in love with the cryptic Mimi Dexter. But Mimi has secrets and, strangely, a tattoo identical to a pendant Daniel’s mother gave him right before she died. Drawn together by broken pasts, they pursue a twisted, tempestuous romance. When it ends, a deteriorating Stavros seeks refuge at a mountain cabin where a series of surreal experiences brings him face to face with something he’s avoided all his life: himself. Though miles away, Mimi’s actions run oddly parallel to Daniel’s. Will either be redeemed, or will both careen toward selfdestruction?
Six out of every hundred Americans suffer from dual diagnosis. Find out just how terrifying it can be, but
discover there is hope.
Bio: Dual diagnosed from an early age, Matthew Peters dropped out of high school at sixteen. He went on to obtain an A.A., a B.A. from Vassar College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University. He has taught various courses in a variety of disciplines throughout North Carolina. All Things That Matter Press $16.99 List Price $5.99 ebook ISBN 978-099604139-3
For events and media: Cindy Campbell 919-923-8857 cincam@aol.com

*The term dual diagnosed refers to someone suffering from a mood disorder (e.g., depression) and chemical dependency.

The NC APSE (Association for People Supporting Employment First) Fall Conference “Focusing on Success!” will be held on October 8-10, 2014 in Blowing Rock, NC.

There will also be an opportunity to take the Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP) Exam! The CESP Exam will be offered on October 8 from 9am -12pm before the start of the Conference. Exam registration is posted on the NCAPSE Certification page and on the APSE Web site at www.apse.org

Conference Registration and information can be found here: http://www.ncapse.org/Fall-Conference.html

NAMI Charlotte is hosting a fundraiser and recognition ceremony. The event will take place at the beautiful Duke Mansion; along with host for the afternoon, television personality Sonja Gantt. The keynote speaker is former NFL player and Super Bowl Champion Keith O’Neil. Keith will share the challenges he faced while playing in the NFL and dealing with Bipolar Disorder. Also during this event, they will recognize four individuals for their outstanding contributions to assisting those in need in the mental heath community.

Sunday, October 26, 2014
2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Duke Mansion
400 Hermitage Road
Charlotte, North Carolina
Ticket Price: $50.00 each
*Donations are welcomed*

Tickets can be purchased here.

All proceeds will be used to continue NAMI Charlotte’s efforts in serving mental health consumers and their families through education, advocacy, and services.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) North Carolina, Inc., a nonprofit grassroots organization, seeks an experienced and committed leader.  This Raleigh-based position includes promoting awareness and visibility of NAMI NC; advocating in the public arena and the legislature; creating strategies for development and fundraising; program development; office management and supervision; financial management; community and public relations/advocacy and working to strengthen our affiliates across the state.

NAMI members include families, consumers, and friends of people with mental illness.  The primary functions are support, education, and advocacy.

The ideal candidate is skilled and experienced as an advocate and in nonprofit management.  The candidate must be articulate, organized, analytical, able to write well, build a consensus, and be well grounded in mental health services and advocacy.

Education BA/BS; MA preferred; starting salary dependent on education and relevant experience. Includes health insurance and vacation/sick leave benefits

Click here for the job description

How to Apply:
Send Letter of Interest, Application and Resume to Chair of the Search Committee at recruit@naminc.org

NAMI North Carolina’s Public Policy Specialist, Nicholle Karim, was one of the guest panelists on  WRAL’s “On the Record” talk show about mental health issues brought to the surface following Robin Williams’ death. Nicholle was joined by Dr. Allen Mask, and Dr. Sarah Lisanby, chair of the department of psychiatry at Duke University.

Watch the show at http://www.wral.com/wral-tv/video/13900615/#RycRyX1UgyGVs44v.99

Consumers who are living well, in recovery, with a mental illness, and who have a personal experience in jail, ability to independently get to Raleigh meetings every other month for 2 hours, and an interest and passion for this subject can apply to serve on the State Prison Advisory Committee. Interested candidates should fill out the form here and return it to the NAMI NC office (instructions provided in form) by September 18.

Helpline Manger, Gloria Harrison was featured on a WRAL news segment about the help and support NAMI NC offers in the wake of Robin Williams’ death.

Click here to read the story and watch the video.

Robin Williams 2011a (2)" by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams - →This file has been extracted from another image: File:Robin Williams 2011a.jpg.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia CommonsNAMI NC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Robin Williams by apparent suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. In North Carolina, suicide is the 8th leading cause of death among adults ages 45-64. Thoughts and behaviors related to suicide is the most common psychiatric emergency.

NAMI NC is no stranger to understanding the challenges that people with mental illness and their families face. We are here to provide support and education to those in need. Our Helpline (800-451-9682) operates Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm and our 34 Affiliates throughout the state provide education and support.

Events such as these can be traumatic or triggering to some. When our society focuses on the issue of suicide, it can often bring up painful memories for suicide loss survivors. It’s important to take care of ourselves and each other. Below please find a variety of resources if you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide.

NAMI NC is a member of the Suicide Prevention Task Force that aims to provide solutions to suicide in North Carolina. We will continue to carry out our mission to promote recovery and optimize the quality of life for those affected by mental illness, by working on important issues like suicide prevention.

More on this topic:

Message from Board President, Mike Mayer: After eight very successful years Deby Dihoff, our Executive Director, has decided to retire at the end of this year. She will be greatly missed. Under her leadership NAMI NC has continued to grow and flourish, building on its original mission to be the grassroots voice on mental illness in this state. We are stronger than ever in our impact on public policy, our advocacy for the best possible recovery-focused services and supports, and our belief that families are partners in recovery.

We are very fortunate that we have several months to complete our search for a new Executive Director and to assure a successful transition. I have asked Carol Matthieu, a long-term member of the Board of Directors and our current Board Secretary, to lead the search committee which is currently being formed and will include representatives from all of our constituencies. We will have more information about the application process in the very near future.

The organization is in excellent shape with strong staff, and while any leadership change presents a challenge, we have confidence in both the process and the outcome. Few nonprofits have weathered the recession in such excellent fiscal shape. Please direct your comments or questions to Carol Matthieu at carolcmatthieu@gmail.com.

I have had a wonderful challenge in leading NAMI NC to a new level over the past eight years, so it is with very mixed feelings that I have made the tough decision to retire as the Executive Director of NAMI North Carolina on December 31, 2014.

I am proud to have played a role in the extraordinary growth of the organization. We’ve expanded outreach, membership, diversity, our visibility within the state, the effectiveness and number of affiliates, and the sheer number of programs which has more than doubled during my tenure. With the help of the amazing team of staff, volunteers, affiliates and board members, NAMI NC has grown and is now thriving, despite the recent recession. It is wonderful to be associated with an organization that works endlessly to achieve our mission, to promote recovery and to optimize the quality of life for those affected by mental illness.

I am grateful to so many members, volunteers, and colleagues who have helped make this organization the strong entity it is today. Thank you for all of your support. And thank you for the many relationships that have been formed in doing this work.  I will miss working with all of you. I can’t wait to see what is next for NAMI NC!

Deby Dihoff,
Executive Director

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