Questions about mental health services after man kills parents, - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Questions about mental health services after man kills parents, officers

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Troy Whisnant's criminal background raises questions about why he did not receive the psychiatric care a judge said he needed.

Whisnant allegedly killed his parents, Ronda and Levi Whisnant, and U.S. Forest Service Officer Jason Crisp and his K9, before being shot and killed by officers.

In 2012, A Burke County judge recommended that Whisnant undergo substance abuse treatment as well as psychiatric and/or psychological counseling.

Furthermore, the judge stated that Whisnant's assignment to a psychiatric facility was strongly recommended.

According to Dave Richard, Deputy Secretary of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Services, the judge could not force Whisnant to undergo psychiatric treatment unless Whisnant was deemed incompetent to stand trial. That was not the case.

"A judge could order the person to a state hospital for commitment if that was the case," Richard said. "But generally you cannot force somebody into treatment. That is the protections that people have."

Richard is a member of Governor McCrory's Crisis Solutions Initiative, which is a new statewide effort to improve mental health and substance abuse services in North Carolina. 

Richard said the majority of criminals with mental health problems receive adequate care while they are incarcerated.

But once convicts, like Whisnant, are set free they tend to fall through the cracks, Richard said.

State leaders told WBTV they have identified the problem. Now officials are working on a solution that prevents criminals from being dumped back into society without adequate support.

"What we are trying to do in our efforts is create a system that is consistent across the state. We want to use community based solutions for people. We also want to use things like our state psychiatric hospitals and other kinds of restrictive environments for those who need it," Richard said.

Richard said it's important to note that most mental health patients are not violent. He said it's equally important to avoid creating a stigma associated with mental illness.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, national studies indicate that 17 percent of people in jail have a serious mental illness.

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