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How to help a person with mental illness who has been arrested

October 9, 2015

Having a loved one arrested who has mental health issues is a scary and overwhelming situation. Family members are often forced to become advocates, to ensure their loved ones get the proper mental health screening, medications, and treatment. They can make an important difference in how the person in jail is treated. Here is list of first steps to take to advocate for your loved one's safety and health.

Topics:   advocacy, family, health, mental health, mental health unit, mental illness, mentally ill, resources

MentalPrisonCuts_1_jpg_800x1000_q100-150x100Having a loved one with mental health issues arrested is scary and overwhelming. Family members must become advocates to ensure that proper mental health screening, medications, and treatment are provided.

Here is list of first steps to take to advocate for your loved one’s safety and health. (Thank you to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and

1. Hand deliver, fax or email a letter asking for your loved one to be screened for placement in a mental health unit. Detailed instructions can be found here.

2. Tell their psychiatrist, case manager, or other service provider that he or she is in jail and ask them to contact the jail regarding treatment plan.

3. Call jail medical staff or administrator to follow up about the mental health history, and politely stress the importance of what medications and continued treatment your loved one needs.

4. Look for Mental Health Courts in your area by searching the Gains Center’s Mental Health Treatment Court locator here. If one is available, let the attorney know that you would like the case brought before this court.

5. Contact your Local Mental Health Authority (LMHA). Use this form to search for the LMHA closest to the jail.  A 24 hour referral line is available specific to your location. LMHAs sometimes offer pre-trial services.

6. If your loved one is not receiving the treatment needed, or is experiencing neglect or abuse, fill out a complaint with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. More information on filing complaints can be found here.

And Texas Jail Project has more information on the front page about people who are found incompetent to stand trail. Or click on


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