Outrage over death of Michael Kerr

We should all be outraged over the death of Michael Kerr, who had a serious mental illness and died of dehydration while in the care of our prison system (“Autopsy blames dehydration for inmate’s death,” Oct. 1).

Mr. Kerr was in segregation for more than a month before his death. Here’s what happens when isolation is used with those with mental illness: Suicides occur more often, symptoms become more pronounced, decompensation can occur, requiring crisis care to hospitalization. It simply does not work with those with mental illnesses!

What mental health care did he receive while in prison? Were the family’s concerns about their loved one taken into consideration? We need protections in prisons for those with disabilities, like limits on seclusion and isolation, treatment requirements and monitoring and oversight. All this can be achieved through requiring accreditation. That has been discontinued in N.C., and this is the result.

Despite this awful story, there are some positives happening, like the prison’s expansion of training for employees to help them understand that many of the behaviors are illness symptoms, not signs of needed disciplinary action. But these changes did not happen fast enough to help Mr. Kerr and his family. Let’s get these changes made now. It’s urgent.

Deby Dihoff

The writer is the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness North Carolina

Scrap Exchange a treasure

Read Lisa Sorg’s informative article (“Lakewood: What’s in store?” Oct. 1) on the Scrap Exchange’s move to Lakewood, and its efforts to become a catalyst to encourage other businesses and organization to come to the neighborhood.

It’s a great idea and representative of the Scrap Exchange’s commitment not only to the environment as a resale organization but to the community in which it lives. Ann Woodward, the executive director of the Scrap Exchange, is a dynamic leader with vision and ability. I worked as a volunteer with her and the organization for nine months and know personally of the commitment of her, the staff and many volunteers to its mission.

I have shopped at the Scrap Exchange scores of times over the years and each time find it a “treasure hunt” among the tens of thousands of resale items of every description, not only fun but practical bargain-hunting. I believe its presence will bring many new, as well as former, consumers to the Lakewood area and will provide new potential for current and prospective businesses. It’s an opportunity waiting to be had.

Hugh Giblin, Durham

Questioning bias in story

I read the article “Shot and under the influence of fentanyl” (Oct.1) with interest, but I felt that it contained clear bias in favor of the defendant’s story. First, it presented at least one apparent inaccuracy. The author writes, “Fleming read Ingram his Miranda rights while Ingram was intubated on an emergency room bed.” If a patient is intubated, there is a breathing tube inserted into his or her throat. The patient cannot speak and is usually heavily sedated. I find it difficult to believe that an officer would attempt to interview an intubated patient. Second, the article is misleading about the side effects of fentanyl. Fentanyl is administered to patients who have suffered a trauma because it has a short duration. That is, it works quickly but the effects also wear off quickly, usually within 30 minutes. This is so the medication does not mask any mental status changes. Not only is 150 micrograms over at least 80 minutes not an unusually high amount of fentanyl for an adult male, it had been over two hours since the last dose before officers interviewed the patient. It is unlikely that the effects of the fentanyl would have still been present at this time, especially if the patient was in pain from being shot. Although I applaud your efforts to inform the public of current court cases, I would encourage a more balanced presentation of the circumstances surrounding them.

Jason Crockett, Durham