Friday, January 2, 2009

A brighter New Year for mentally ill prisoners in Hawaii, New York

Aloha: friendly, hospitable, welcoming
According to the US Department of Justice, Hawaii has been anything but the Aloha State for the mentally ill incarcerated. After launching an investigation in 2005 of the O’ahu Community Correctional Center, the feds in 2007 declared the facility had glaring deficiencies when it came to treating mental health and later filed suit against the state.
On December 31, the Honolulu Advertiser reported that the state reached a settlement agreement with the DOJ. Among the changes to be made:
• A ban on “therapeutic lockdowns” in which inmates were routinely isolated from staff or mental health professionals.
• Mandating that inmates placed in “individualized seclusion” be assessed by an appropriate mental health professional within four hours and routinely checked afterwards.
• Improving suicide watches.
• Increasing control of psychotropic medications.

New York’s state of mind

Seeing that 10% of their prison population is diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, New York’s Office of Mental Health and the Department of Correctional Services are unveiling a new “wellness self-management” program.
Starting in February, inmates will attend seminars to learn about coping with their mental health conditions, managing medications and side effects, and how to improve communication with clinicians.
The initiative begins at Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon followed by the Sing Sing and Bedford Hills prisons.
Read more about this at the Poughkeepsie Journal.
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