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The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships For Mental Health Journalism 2009-2010

Michael Biesecker

The Charlotte Observer and The Raleigh News & Observer
Raleigh, N.C.

Topic: Investigate the treatment of people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities in North Carolina's jails and prisons.

Published Work:

Feds Probing North Carolina's Mental Health System (link no longer available) 
The U.S. Justice Department has opened a formal investigation into North Carolina's struggling mental health system, the first step in a process that could trigger a federal edict for sweeping reform.

Part Five of N&O Series on Mental Health Reform

Complaint by Disability Rights NC to the United States Department of Justice
Twenty years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and over ten years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C., the state of North Carolina continues to rely on institutional placements for the long-term care of many adults with severe and persistent mental illness. While the State classifies these homes as “community settings,” in practice Adult Care Homes are true institutions, with a high bed capacity, a lack of individual autonomy, and isolation from the general community. 

Mental Hospital Fired a Worker Shown on Tape Choking a Child (link no longer available)
An employee at a state mental hospital in Butner was fired and arrested last month after being caught on video choking a child.

Mental Disorder: The Failure of Reform
Mental-health reform has been a bust for North Carolina taxpayers and patients. Millions of dollars have been wasted and services have suffered.

Disabled Patient Strangles (link no longer available) 
A severely disabled patient at a state home in Goldsboro died last month after she was left unattended for more than an hour and slid down in her wheelchair, strangling on the strap intended to hold her in.

Patient Buried Before Cherry File Report to Pathologist (link no longer available) 
Administrators at a troubled state mental hospital in Goldsboro failed to provide their report of a recent patient death to a pathologist, as required.

Man's Death Turns Glare on Cherry Hospital (link no longer available) 
Two hours after he was discharged from a state psychiatric hospital in Goldsboro last month, Jeffery Scott Swaim's mother found him slumped in the seat of a Greyhound bus in Wilmington.

SBI Probes Hospital Sex Report 
Three male employees at Dorothea Dix Hospital lost their jobs Thursday as the State Bureau of Investigation was asked to look into allegations they had sex with female prisoners working at the state mental hospital. A fourth employee left her job under suspicion that she had a personal relationship with an inmate that did not include sex.

Mental Patients Turned Away in Wake (link no longer available) 
For the first time in its history, Wake County's mental health crisis and assessment unit had to shut its doors earlier this week and turn clients away because it had more people needing help than it could safely handle.

Tote Named as New State Mental Health Director (link no longer available) 
John Tote was named Tuesday as the state's new mental health director.

Mental Health Leader on Hold (link no longer available) 
John Tote may not be the new director of the state's troubled mental health system after all. Tote was named to the Post Tuesday by Lanier Cansler, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

New State Mental Health Leader Left Agency With Problems (link no longer available) 
John Tote, who was named Tuesday as the state's new mental health director, is leaving behind a financial mess at the advocacy group he helped lead for the past 24 years.

State Official's Last Job Has IRS Woes (link no longer available)
John Tote, who was named Tuesday as the state's new mental health director, is leaving behind a financial mess at the advocacy group he helped lead for the past 24 years.

Mental Health Advocacy Group is Calling It Quits (link no longer available) 
The financially troubled Mental Health Association of North Carolina is shutting down. A brief statement released Friday by the organization's interim executive director, Christie Foppiano, confirmed that MHA is insolvent and shutting its doors.

Mentally Ill Often Turned Away, End Up in ER (link no longer available) 
People with mental illness are still languishing in North Carolina's hospital emergency rooms for days, unable to get psychiatric treatment.

Study Shows Mentally Ill Still Languishing in N.C. Emergency Rooms (link no longer available) 
People with mental illness are still languishing in North Carolina's hospital emergency rooms for days, unable to get psychiatric treatment.

Two Mental Health Leaders Appointed (link no longer available) 
Two new officials have been named to oversee the state's mental health system, which continues to struggle in the face of deep budget cuts and a shortage of treatment beds.

Mental Patients Get Stuck in ERs (link no longer available) 
Across North Carolina, mental patients are routinely languishing for days in emergency rooms ill-equipped to care for them, waiting for a bed to open at one of four state-run psychiatric hospitals.

Mental Health Administrator Fired (link no longer available) 
A key administrator overseeing the state's mental health system has been fired. The departure of Dr. Michael Lancaster, the chief of clinical policy for the state Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, is part of a larger management shake-up.

Mental Health Group Can Pay Only Half Wages (link no longer available) 
The state's oldest and largest mental health advocacy group is in such deep financial trouble it cannot fully pay its workers.

Charlotte Mental Health Center Faces Shutdown
A private mental treatment center for children in Charlotte could be shut down after a series of violent incidents, including the staff hitting patients and a teenager stabbing another child in the eye with a rusty nail.

Mental Health Rules Remade (link no longer available) 
State mental health officials rolled out new requirements Friday aimed at strengthening North Carolina's struggling mental health system and imposing stability after nearly a decade of failed reform efforts.

Dix Patients Protest Moves to Other Facilities (link no longer available) 
Long-term patients from Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh have signed a petition to protest the pending shutdown of most of the facility's operations.

NAACP Says Closing Dix Will Hurt the Poor (link no longer available) 
The state branch of the NAACP has added its voice to the chorus of groups expressing opposition to the pending closure of Dorothea Dix Hospital.

Dix Official Stops Legislator's Tour of Hospital (link no longer available) 
Rep. Verla Insko, co-chairman of the state's legislative oversight committee for mental health, was removed from a tour of Dorothea Dix Hospital last week because the visit had not been approved by top administrators at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Cops Clear Frustrated Speakers at Meeting
Police officers were called to help clear the room Wednesday after a legislative meeting on changes to the state's mental health system ended before advocates for people with developmental disabilities were given a chance to speak.

Bill Calls for Dix Sale to Benefit Mental Health (link no longer available) 
A bill headed for a floor vote in the state Senate would require proceeds from any sale of land from Dorothea Dix Hospital to be transferred to the Mental Health Trust Fund.

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