Over the weekend the N&O reported that Gov. Perdue wasn’t happy with the state’s probation and parole system, yet her budget cuts continue to target the state’s most basic, necessary services. Doesn’t she realize her actions have a trickle down effect? It’s time we face the facts, Perdue is putting the state in a very vulnerable place, with the burden of a costly future.

Gov. Bev Perdue said Sunday that fixing the state’s probation system remains high on her to-do list.

“I am not happy with where probation and parole, our state’s system, is today,” Perdue said Sunday. “I am happier than I was at this time last year. … It was a wreck.”

Perdue was responding to a report in The News & Observer that one of the probation system’s chief problems has worsened in the past year: 141 street-level positions for probation officers are vacant – up 32 from a year ago.

“It was a wreck”? Sorry but this is a simple case of the pot calling the kettle black. The number of state programs that ARE a wreck, due to ole’ Bev policies and budget cuts has grown exponentially. Moreover, as long as she and the state legislators continue with business as usual things will only get worse, much worse.

One example that comes to mind is Perdue’s narrow-minded, slash and burn approach to the state’s Mental Health system. Studies have shown repeatedly that mental illness and Crime go hand in hand.  A Harvard study in 2009, showed that nearly “Two thirds of prisoners nationwide with a mental illness were off treatment at the time of their arrest”. The study also found that “under-treatment of mental illness contributes to crime and incarceration”.

The study, published today online in the American Journal of Public Health, found that about a quarter of inmates nationwide had a history of chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar illness and depression. Researchers analyzed data collected in 2002 and 2004 from local, state and federal correctional facilities.

Now, consider the recent case where a mother camped out at Wake County’s Crisis and Assessment Unit to make sure her son got the mental health treatment he needed. However, her 13-year-old son didn’t arrive at the unit with his mother, he arrived at the unit in the back of a squad car because he had assaulted his mother and his brother.  But wait, if that isn’t bad enough. 

On their first night at the Wake facility, Joshua was approved for admission to the children’s unit at Central Regional Hospital, a 378-bed facility n Butner that opened in 2008. Though a whole children’s ward at the $138million hospital sits empty because there are too few staff members to open it, Wake officials were told for the past week that the hospital could not take Joshua until another child checked out.

Though Central Regional theoretically has the capacity for 72 children, only 13 were there Tuesday because the hospital didn’t have the workers to accommodate more.

At the county crisis unit, which is designed only for short stays, staff members made 67 calls over the past week to the state’s four mental hospitals and 11 private facilities in search of an available bed. Each time, they were told there was either no space or the facility was not equipped to serve Joshua.

Where will this young man end up as he grows older? What if continued mental health treatment is not available to him and the thousands like him? As a state we will pay a much higher cost if the mentally ill enters the judical system and left untreated the odds are they will. No amount of probation or parole officers can fix this problem as long as our state continues to ignore the big picture. Maybe if Perdue sat in a crisis unit for days on end, waiting for a bed to open up for her mentally ill  son or daughter, she would see first hand the effects of her failed government policies. Gov. Perdue, do you need to be reminded we are talking about people here not numbers? Think about that when you come up for re-election in 2012, I know I will.