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Tragedy Focuses Spotlight on Crisis in North Carolina Mental Health System

RALEIGH, N.C., Dec. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The death of Steven Sabock, a 50-year-old man with bipolar disorder who died on April 29 in a North Carolina state psychiatric institution after he choked on medication -- while, nearby, hospital employees entertained themselves with cards and TV -- has focused attention on the crisis in North Carolina's mental health system.

"The tragic, preventable death of Steven Sabock -- which made headlines last week -- graphically demonstrates the abuse and neglect of people with psychiatric disabilities statewide and nationally," said Jeff McLoud, board president of the North Carolina Mental Health Consumers' Organization (NCMHCO), a statewide advocacy group of people with mental illnesses. "Now is the time for a call to action for mental health advocates to prevent others in our nation's psychiatric hospitals from dying at the hands of the very professionals who were hired to help them."

The North Carolina group, a member of the National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations, is joining a national call for widespread, substantive reforms in America's mental health system. These would include raising standards and regulatory expectations, and funding pilot programs to demonstrate best practices in psychiatric emergency, inpatient and community-based care.

Sabock's death -- after which three hospital employees were dismissed and five others were suspended for under a week (although no criminal charges have been filed) -- highlights an egregious pattern of abuse and neglect of those who have psychiatric disabilities. According to the News & Observer last February, more than 80 people in North Carolina state mental institutions "have died since December 2000 under circumstances that raise questions about their care while patients or immediately after discharge . . . homicides, suicides, accidents, inadequate treatment or mistakes." A number of these deaths occurred at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro; on September 1, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services decertified the hospital because it was out of compliance with health and safety standards. At the same time, the director of Central Regional Hospital in Butner, who resigned after an outcry over her commissioning a portrait of herself using state funds (which have since been returned), is on a team reviewing patient safety at Cherry Hospital.

The North Carolina Mental Health Consumers' Organization ( is a private non-profit organization established in 1989 to offer advocacy and support to adults with mental illness.

CONTACT: Jeff McLoud, +1-252-527-0640,

SOURCE North Carolina Mental Health Consumers' Organization
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