Mentally Ill In NC Jails Without Treatment Options

North Carolina's shortage of options to treat the mentally ill means county jails hold thousands of sick inmates, costing taxpayers big bucks as they wait for weeks or months to be evaluated or treated.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports ( ) that studies estimate up to 20 percent of the country's jail and prison inmates suffer serious mental illness. That means about 3,400 people suffering mental illnesses are stuck in North Carolina jails built to hold those charged with crimes for only a short time.

North Carolina has just 850 beds in its mental hospitals.

Psychotherapist Adam Adams evaluates jail inmates in Wake County and says county lockups have become the state's largest mental institution as they're held for what sometimes minor offenses.