BOSTON (SHNS) – The U.S. Justice Department and the Baker administration’s state Department of Correction used different framing late Tuesday to describe a new agreement governing mental health care for incarcerated people.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s public safety secretariat said the accord “will further advance the significant improvements implemented by the DOC with respect to mental health care policies and practices in DOC facilities.” The office of U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins said the accord would “address unconstitutional mental health treatment of incarcerated individuals.”
Among other things, the agreement provides for the appointment of an independent monitor, Dr. Reena Kapoor, to ensure compliance. Kapoor, a psychiatry professor at Yale School of Medicine, will file public reports on compliance, according to the U.S. Attorney. Rollins said the agreement, which stems from an investigation launched in 2018, authorizes a new civilian support person position and mandatory out-of-cell mental health contacts.
It also calls for a new stabilization unit “to provide more intensive mental health treatment for individuals in mental health crisis who are not improving while on mental health watch.” “In the instant case, our investigation found unconstitutional conditions and circumstances where incarcerated people in mental health crisis harmed themselves up to and including suicide,” Rollins said.
“We must provide better mental health treatment in our carceral facilities. Statistics show that far too many of the incarcerated population suffers from significant mental health and substance use disorders, among other severe things. Moving forward, we will be working closely with DOC to address and correct the serious issues and violations identified in our November 2020 Notice.” With innovations, the DOC “could become an example for the nation,” Rollins said.
Baker administration public safety officials highlighted improvements completed or underway at the Department of Correction. “The Department has been diligent, transparent, and cooperative with the DOJ to advance our shared goal of improving mental health care for those experiencing a mental health crisis. We remain deeply committed to the health and well-being of all entrusted to our care while ensuring the protection of their physical safety and civil rights,” said DOC Commissioner Carol Mici.