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Division of Correction to be Honored by National Alliance on Mental Illness

Towson, MD – The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will be giving the Maryland Division of Correction (DOC) its highest honor during the non-profit’s annual awards dinner at Sheppard Pratt Health System in Towson on October 17th.

Maryland Public Safety Secretary Robert L. Green and Commissioner of Correction Wayne Hill will accept the NAMI Wild Iris Outstanding Community Partner Award, which recognizes the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ commitment to advocating for people with mental illness.

The Maryland Division of Correction has worked closely with NAMI Maryland on reforming the correctional system’s response to individuals living with mental illness, including the development and implementation of a 40-hour crisis de-escalation training currently being delivered to correctional officers throughout the state. The de-escalation team is active and making strong inroads throughout the correctional system.

“When nearly two million people who live with mental illness are taken to jails and prisons each year, it is critical that correctional officers receive adequate crisis de-escalation training,” says Kate Farinholt, NAMI’s executive Director. “The Division of Correction has been incredibly responsive, flexible, and open to working with us on transforming the correctional system’s response to individuals with mental illness.”

Mental health issues are a serious concern in the state prison system. The Division of Correction houses more than 2,400 men and women who have been diagnosed with serious mental illnesses. This number does not include approximately three thousand more inmates and detainees who struggle with various lesser forms of mental illness.

“Our population mirrors society in general,” says DPSCS Secretary Robert Green. “We have a tremendous challenge to help those who suffer from these debilitating illnesses. We must, for the sake of society as a whole, and for the safety of our staff and inmates, do as much as we can inside our facilities to help those afflicted.”

NAMI is America’s largest grassroots mental health advocacy group. For years, The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has worked closely with NAMI, most recently sending dozens of Parole and Probation agents through rigorous Crisis Intervention Training, which is designed to de-escalate situations in which the wrong approach by law enforcement could trigger a serious, if not deadly, response.

“I’m proud of our Inmate Health services and our line staff in DOC,” says Secretary Green, “for their professionalism in dealing with this most difficult illness. This award is for each and every officer and treatment professional whose care and concern makes such a difference.”