Saturday, May 3, 2014

Mental Health Issues and Law Enforcement

On the street, there are easy ways and hard ways for Law Enforcment to help those with mental health issues.

The hard way, yet proper way, is to get a "Green Warrant" or Temporary Detainment Order.  This requires the Officer/Deputy to spend hours and hours of their time attempting to get Mental Health Officials to find a bed somewhere for this individual.  This is the long, hard way.  This often will involve their time and keep them off the street and unavailable for calls for up to twelve hours.  This will lead into overtime, or more likely "trade time" so the counties don't have to pay extra.  Understandably, most of the deputies/officers will tell us that their supervisors discourage them taking this course of action.

Unfortunately, the easy way is to arrest the individual.  It is quite easy to drum up a reason to help arrest an individual whom has an altered mental status.  Once the individual is under arrest, then it is up to the jail to get the new inmate assistance on their mental health issues.  The Officer/Deputy spends no more than an hour (often less) tied up with the arrest, and then they are back on patrol.  However, if you are the son of an influential politician (Say, Gus Deeds) then local law enforcement tend to treat you with kid gloves.  

Sometimes it is easy, such as getting their previous medical history and getting them back on their medications.  Sometimes the inmate needs to be seen by mental health and they will diagnose and medicate them while they are incarcerated.  Sometimes the inmate needs to be transferred to the state forensic facility in order to receive proper treatment...  but there are only a handful of state forensic facilities capable of handling inmates.   This is a long process for most inmates.

We had one inmate who was HUGE!  And he was dangerous.  Any time we dealt with him we had to pull multiple officers, we had to restrain the inmate, et al.  This inmate was assault and destructive.  Mentally, the best way to describe him as if there was no one home upstairs.  His behavior was random, and often he would not acknowledge other people.  We delt with him for a year, yet mental health kept claiming that he was faking the entire time.  It took a year of his behavior in jail (whereupon the judge kept kicking him out of court) before the forensic facility took the inmate.  That inmate is still in that facility.

But we had one inmate who's dad was a lawyer.  The kid was a little snot.  He took a small amount of a medication that I will not identify due to liability reasons.  That inmate refused his medications for a long time, and we knew that he was doing so in order to act out in court.  (This trick is a common trick among inmates.)  Well, he acts out in court and due to him having a well connected father and a well paid lawyer that inmate was in the forensic unit the next day.

Money talks.

What was odd to me was that the inmate came to court directly from the forensic unit, and got a slap on the wrist sentence.  The inmate still got jail time, just not much of it.  It was passed on from the security unit that the inmate tried to spit out his medications undetected in order to "freak out" in court a second time.  The way the news reported it, our facility neglected to give him proper mental health treatment.  We got the blame, because under HIPPA we can't make medical statements.  (I doubt that the media bothered to contact our agency in the first place, or if they did it was a last minute call and we didn't have time to prep a statement.)

Our mental health system is screwed up.  Part of the problem is that people don't want to work hard (or are discouraged from working hard) and do their job properly.  But often the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

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