When a loved one with mental disorders is arrested
October 1, 2015
If your loved one has a mental health diagnosis and is arrested, it can be helpful to fax a letter to the county jail and request that your loved one be screened for placement in a mental health unit. (Or you can deliver your letter in person to the jail.)
Here are instructions for what information to include and other helpful information:
(Thank you to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for this guide):
• Write a letter requesting that your relative be screened for placement in the mental health unit. Tell them his or her
o Full legal name
o Date of birth
o Booking number
• In the body of the fax include:
o His/her diagnosis
o His/her psychiatrist’s name, phone number, and address
o The medications that are prescribed for your family member by name, dosage, and time of day to be administered
o Whether a particular medication has proven to be ineffective or has dangerous and/or uncomfortable side effects
o Any history of suicide attempts/threats or other violent intentions in the recent past. Briefly describe the events and when they occurred.
o Any other urgent medical conditions that might require immediate attention, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, seizures, heart problems, etc., and medications currently prescribed for those conditions. Include his/her medical doctor’s name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. The medical information you provide is tremendously valuable in making an assessment and will help the mental health staff select the best treatment for your relative. There is a clear preference for maintaining effective current treatment. However, the Jail Mental Health staff must conduct its own assessment of your relative’s condition and may not necessarily prescribe exactly the same medications.
• IMPORTANT: Do NOT discuss any impending charges against your family member in this fax. Medical information only!
• Keep a copy of this fax for future reference. If your family member is transferred to a different facility, you will need to fax this information again.
• On the cover page, indicate whether your relative has provided you with a written confidentiality waiver. If your relative has not previously done so, ask that he/she be asked to sign one while in jail. The Jail Mental Health staff is prohibited by law from giving anyone information about a client’s status unless they have the client’s consent, but the staff can receive information from relatives or friends without the client’s consent.