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The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

AN ACT RELATIVE TO THE TREATMENT OF MENTALLY ILL IN PRISONS

         Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
         SECTION 1.  Section 1 of chapter 127 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the definition of “Parole board” the following 3 definitions:-
         “Qualified mental health professional”, a treatment provider who is a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric social worker or psychiatric nurse and others who by virtue of education, credentials and experience are permitted by law to evaluate and care for the mental health needs of patients.
         “Residential treatment unit”, a general population housing unit within a correctional institution of the commonwealth that is operated for the purpose of providing treatment and rehabilitation for inmates with mental illness.
         “Secure treatment unit”, a maximum security residential treatment program designed to provide an alternative to segregation for inmates diagnosed with serious mental illness in accordance with clinical standards adopted by the department of correction.
         SECTION 2.  Said chapter 127 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 17 the following section:-
         Section 17A.  (a) The commissioner shall establish programs in state correctional facilities, as defined in section 1 of chapter 125. The programs shall include, but not be limited to, residential treatment units, as are necessary for the treatment of mentally ill inmates confined therein who are in need of mental health services but who do not require hospitalization for the treatment of mental illness, as determined by a qualified mental health professional.  Such inmates shall be offered therapy and programming in settings that are appropriate to their clinical needs while maintaining the safety and security of the facility.
         (b)  All department of correction staff who work in secure treatment units and residential treatment units shall receive mental health training. Such training may include information about the types and symptoms of mental illnesses, the goals of mental health treatment, medication and side effects, co-occurring disorders, de-escalation techniques and how to effectively and safely manage inmates with mental illness.
         SECTION 3.  Section 39 of said chapter 127, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the first paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:-
         Except as provided in section 39A, at the request of the superintendent of any state correctional facility, as defined in section 1 of chapter 125, the commissioner may authorize the transfer, for such period as the commissioner may determine, to a segregated unit within any state correctional facility, as defined in said section 1 of said chapter 125, of any inmate whose continued retention in the general institution population is detrimental to the program of the institution.
         SECTION 4.  Said chapter 127 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 39 the following section:-
         Section 39A.  (a) Prior to placement in a segregated unit within a state correctional facility, as defined in section 1 of chapter 125, all inmates shall be screened by a qualified mental health professional to determine whether the inmate has a serious mental illness and whether there are any acute mental health contraindications to placement in a segregated unit. The screening shall be conducted in accordance with clinical standards adopted by the department of correction.
         A qualified mental health professional shall make rounds in each such segregated unit and may conduct an out-of-cell meeting with any inmate for whom a confidential meeting is warranted in the clinician’s professional judgment.  Inmates in such segregated units shall be evaluated by a qualified mental health professional in accordance with clinical standards adopted by the department of correction.
         (b)  Inmates who have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, in accordance with clinical standards adopted by the department of correction, shall not be housed in a segregated unit; provided, however, if exigent circumstances exist that would create an unacceptable risk to the safety of any person or no secure treatment unit bed is available, then an inmate with a serious mental illness may be confined to a segregated unit for a period of time, not to exceed 30 days.  Such segregated inmates awaiting transfer to a secure treatment unit shall be offered additional mental health services in accordance with clinical standards adopted by the department of correction.

Approved, January 5, 2015.