In Memoriam: Carl C. Bell, MD, CCHP - National Commission on Correctional Health Care
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Aug 5, 2019

In Memoriam: Carl C. Bell, MD, CCHP

Carl C. Bell, MD, CCHP, a distinguished psychiatrist, violence-prevention crusader and preeminent expert on the impact of violence on children in disadvantaged communities, died at his home in Chicago on August 2.

Dr. Bell’s involvement with NCCHC dates to the organization’s beginnings. He was a founding board member, and served for 33 years as the National Medical Association liaison, providing expertise on the relationship between poverty, violence, mental health, race and incarceration. During his tenure, he served as board chairman twice and chaired the accreditation committee for more than a decade. He played key roles on the development (and updates) of NCCHC’s jail, prison and mental health standards, as well as the seminal “Health Status of Soon-to-Be-Released Inmates” report to Congress. He also advocated for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to broaden its mission to include correctional health care – a significant turning point for the field.

In addition to many other awards, in 2018 Dr. Bell received the Bernard P. Harrison Award of Merit, NCCHC’s highest honor, for his long involvement with the organization and his groundbreaking work.

In a career spanning nearly 50 years, he authored more than 500 articles, chapters and books, including a chapter on correctional psychology in the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry. He consulted for numerous departments of corrections, universities, and local, state and federal government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Institute of Mental Health and the U.S. Surgeon General. He lectured all over the world and was interviewed by news outlets too numerous to list.

Dr. Bell founded the Community Mental Health Council on Chicago’s South Side, one of the largest community mental health clinics in the country, in 1987. For 25 years the clinic provided low-income patients with outpatient care, residential services, emergency psychiatric care, victim services, research and advocacy.

Most recently he was a staff psychiatrist at Jackson Park Hospital Family Medical Center and Clinical Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. His recent research focused on prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in low-income communities.

 Dr. Bell is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and recipient of several prestigious APA awards: the Solomon Carter Fuller Award, honoring “a black citizen who pioneered an area which has significantly benefited the quality of life for black people”; the Agnes Purcell McGavin Award for Prevention in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; the APA Special Presidential Commendation in recognition of this outstanding advocacy for mental illness prevention and for person-centered mental health wellness and recovery, and its Distinguished Service Award.

He is remembered as a trailblazer, a visionary and an activist — determined, outspoken and unconventional. A colleague once said about Carl Bell, “He excels at changing the way people think.”

A memorial service will be held Friday, August 23, 11 am, at Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave. in Chicago.

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