RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory has announced the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice has received a $679,000 grant award to expand a specialty mental health probation pilot program to Brunswick, McDowell, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Orange and Durham counties. The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Justice’s (USDOJ) Bureau of Justice Assistance Smart Supervision program.
“This pilot program holds the promise of reducing substance use and recidivism,” Gov. McCrory said. “This program will train probation and parole officers to better handle clients with mental health challenges and connect them to community programs that will help them lead productive lives.”
In this pilot program, the state probation system has been working with the UNC School of Social Work and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to train probation officers to supervise caseloads of probationers and parolees with mental illness, substance use and personality disorders.
“The training and experience we have received through this pilot program has proven invaluable in helping us effectively supervise an underserved population with unique risks and needs,” said Ed Mazyck, a Sampson County probation/parole officer currently working in the pilot program. “By better understanding these severe and persistent mental illnesses, we are able to identify and connect probationers to the community programs and resources that are necessary to reduce their chances of reoffending. Even after a relatively short amount of time, we have noticed a reduction in substance abuse, improved adherence to treatment, and fewer probation violations.”
The majority of funding from the grant will be used to provide specialized training and clinical supervision to probation officers carrying caseloads of offenders with mental illnesses. It will also support cross-systems training and development of collaborative partnerships between probation officers, community mental health providers and the Justice Innovation Team at N.C. DHHS, as well as a study of the program and its impact on recidivism and mental health outcomes for probationers.
This grant complements others recently secured by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) as part of efforts to reduce recidivism among its offender populations.
A $1.75 million grant from the USDOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance will help expand the reforms begun as part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative by further integrating evidence based practices into programming in state prisons and enhancing transitional services for inmates as they prepare to leave prison. Another grant of $1.1 million from USDOJ will provide improved reintegration of juvenile offenders into the community.
In March, NCDPS was one of five agencies selected to receive technical assistance from the Vera Institute of Justice through its Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative aimed at reducing the use of solitary confinement and other forms of segregated prisoner housing.