I recently attended the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Indiana’s Criminal Justice Summit in Indianapolis, IN. The morning’s keynote speaker was Major Sam Cochran (ret.), who is nationally known for his work in developing the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) model in Memphis, TN.
Cochran’s message was clear: CIT is not just a law enforcement program; CIT is a community program and should be recognized as a community priority. It should involve not only law enforcement officers and dispatchers, but also prosecutors, judges, emergency room personnel, physicians, nurses, psychiatrists, therapists, the community mental health center, and other community resource centers.
Yesterday, I served on a panel of family members who have loved ones with mental illness, where we talked to a room full of police officers (approximately 30 of them) as part of their crisis intervention team (CIT) training. NAMI-WCI (West Central Indiana) provided the training.
As I prepared my story for the presentation, I realized that I am never the one who calls 911 when my wife is experiencing a manic episode. My wife has always been the one to call, usually because she is experiencing paranoia and psychosis and feels the need to call the police for protection.
This made me wonder… why?
The other day, I was looking through a very helpful publication entitled “What To Do in a Psychiatric Crisis in Indiana,” published by NAMI Indiana. I read it before and mentioned it in a previous post entitled “What To Do in a Psychiatric Crisis,” but what struck me this time was the discussion of calling 911. If you call 911 to report a psychiatric crisis, the dispatcher is most likely to send the police, and NAMI cautions:
It is important to note that depending on the police officer involved and other contingencies, s/he may take your loved one to jail instead of to the emergency room. Be clear about what you want to have happen.
That’s excellent advice, but wouldn’t it be better if you called 911 to report a psychiatric crisis, and instead of just the police an ambulance arrived, too? After all, bipolar disorder is an illness, and ambulances have medications that can calm a person down. Also, wouldn’t someone who’s experiencing a major mood episode be more inclined to voluntarily go away in an ambulance than in a squad car? Wouldn’t it be less stigmatizing?
If a loved one with mental illness or suspected mental illness is arrested, the goal is to transition the person as quickly as possible from the legal system to the healthcare system. The Los Angeles NAMI Criminal Justice Committee has posted a very thorough seven-step guide to help families navigate the criminal justice system in Los Angeles County when a family member who suffers from a brain disorder (mental illness) is arrested. It’s called “Mental Illness Arrest: What do I do?”
This post changes the process a bit, removes details related to the Los Angeles jail, includes some additional notes and tips, and presents everything in more of a checklist format.
I just read an article on the FOX News website entitled, “Judge Rules Prison Doctors Can Forcibly Medicate Loughner.” The article says that the key question is whether prison officials or a judge should decide whether Loughner should be forcibly medicated.
Loughner’s attorneys also are fighting the forced medication at the 9th Circuit. The key question is whether prison officials or a judge should decide whether a mentally ill person who poses a danger in prison should be forcibly medicated. Prosecutors say the decision is for prison officials to make, while Loughner’s lawyers say it’s up to a judge.
My immediate thought was “Shouldn’t the doctors be deciding that?” and “Why would Loughner’s attorneys be fighting against the forced medication?”
NAMI Indiana has some very valuable information about what to do in a psychiatric crisis in Indiana. It actually publishes a small book called What To Do in a Psychiatric Crisis in Indiana.
Along with that, you can go online at namiindiana.org, click What to do in a crisis, and click your county to find out which Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) to contact, the number to call for police, whether the police have Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officers who are trained to respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis, and additional helpful information.
Basically, what you do is contact people who can help: