What are NC Department of Adult Correction (NCDAC) staff needs related to peer and behavioral/mental health supports? How can the SHIELD program provide these supports to improve employee mental health?

Opportunity closes: Open until filled
Department or Agency: NC Department of Adult Correction

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Behavioral/Mental healthCorrectional HealthcareCriminal JusticeEvidence-based PracticePublic SafetySuicide and Self-Injury Prevention and InterventionWorkforce Needs

Project Overview


The NC Department of Adult Correction (NCDAC) and the NC Office of Strategic Partnerships (OSP) hosted a research partnership interest meeting on February 1, 2024, to discuss this project and a separate project. Click here for the meeting recording and slide deck.

Note: These are two interrelated questions NCDAC expects to be part of the same project but may involve more than one researcher or research team.

NCDAC operates the Support, Hope, Inclusion, Empowerment, Loyalty, and Dedication (SHIELD) Program to provide peer support and behavioral and mental health services for agency staff. The NCDAC SHIELD Program*, housed within NCDAC’s Workforce Management Division, focuses on effective coping for job stress and healing from traumatic stress. SHIELD is in the process of developing structured programming for agency employees, including: individual counseling and coaching sessions, wellness presentations, critical incident response by request, and a phone access line that agency staff can call for support from trained clinicians.

As of November 2023, the SHIELD Program, is providing behavioral health services and moving towards full capacity as NCDAC hires additional programmatic and clinical staff.

NCDAC seeks to partner with an external researcher/research team to conduct a needs assessment to identify agency staff needs around peer and behavioral/mental health supports. NCDAC will use the results of the needs assessment to improve existing and/or develop new and more tailored SHIELD programming.

NCDAC identified these research questions through the NCDAC and OSP partnership, which is a broader strategic effort to develop NCDAC's Priority Questions Research Agenda. This process included feedback from internal and external stakeholders who discussed in listening sessions and indicated on surveys that two of NCDAC’s key goals are 1) to understand the effectiveness of existing initiatives centered around employee mental health and 2) to identify evidence-based approaches to improve employee wellness.

NCDAC, established as a new Cabinet agency in the 2021-23 state budget, began operations on January 1, 2023. NCDAC is the second largest North Carolina state government agency with almost 20,000 positions and an annual budget of approximately $2 billion. NCDAC is responsible for approximately 30,000 individuals who are incarcerated in state prisons and more than 84,000 individuals who are on supervised probation, parole, or post-release supervision.

*The NCDAC SHIELD Program is specific to NCDAC. It is not created or adapted from other SHIELD programs outside of NC state government and is not the NC Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) Staff Helping in Emergency Life-changing crisis or Difficult situations (NCDPS-SHIELD) Program (a peer support services program), which no longer exists. While some aspects of the NCDAC SHIELD Program are similar to the NCDPS-SHIELD Program, the NCDAC SHIELD Program integrates peer support and behavioral and mental health support to assist agency staff.

Anticipated deliverables

NCDAC SHIELD Program staff and researcher/s will discuss project deliverables, which are likely to include:

  • Needs Assessment Design Plan articulating the proposed scope of work and timeline for data collection, analysis, and reporting to NCDAC.
  • Data collection instruments necessary to identify NCDAC staff peer and behavioral/mental health support needs.
  • Needs Assessment Report with detailed findings from SHIELD Program Needs Assessment including recommendations to NCDAC for SHIELD implementation and service delivery.
  • Presentation to NCDAC on identified agency staff needs for peer and behavioral/mental health supports.

Planned use of results

NCDAC will use the results of the needs assessment to identify what SHIELD could address with peer and behavioral/mental health supports. By identifying the issues for which staff need the most support, or in what areas NCDAC could improve support/s, SHIELD can develop and implement more tailored programming.


OSP, agency partners, and research partners work together to determine if a project has costs, what funding may be available, and possibilities for pursuing funding, if needed. Funding may be available to cover some or all project costs.


NCDAC, OSP, and research partners will work together to assess what data would advance the needs assessment, whether the data is already collected and available, and/or whether and how to collect and share it. Some example information and data NCDAC can make available to research partners for the needs assessment include:

This project is open. Interested in collaborating?

Project point of contact

Charlamane Suggs


NC Department of Adult Correction


Application details

Expertise needed

  • Expertise in mixed-methods research and program evaluation.
  • Experience conducting needs assessments, preferably for public sector agencies.
  • Expertise identifying peer support and behavioral/mental health needs to improve staff mental health.
  • Understanding of the multitude of factors that impact staff wellness and interventions to improve staff wellness.
  • Familiarity with the implications of primary traumatic and secondary traumatic stress on a workforce.
  • Working knowledge of behavioral and mental health services and service delivery.
  • Familiarity with correctional and/or criminal justice environments.

Key dates

Open until filled. NCDAC will discuss the project timeline with researchers with the goal of completing the needs assessment, including all deliverables noted above, by August 31, 2024.

Project Team

NC Department of Adult Correction

NC Office of Strategic Partnerships

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