How to make 911 Respond to Mental Illness Calls - Mental Illness Policy Org
How to make 911 Respond to Mental Illness Calls 2017-01-28T17:04:34+00:00

How to make 911 respond to your calls

Also see this excellent info from NAMI Glendale, CA.

Individuals with neurobiological disorders (“NBD” formerly known as serious mental illnesses) are occassionaly danger to themselves, suicidal and/or danger to others. When this happens, you may want to call 911. It is often difficult to get 911 to respond to your calls if you need someone to come & take your MI relation to a hospital emergency room (ER). They may not believe that you really need help. And if they do send the police, the police are often reluctant to take someone for involuntary commitment. That is because cops are concerned about liability. They don’t want to be sued for taking someone to the ER involuntarily. Another reason is that they must stay with the person until he or she is admitted. This can take between 2-48 hours. Cops don’t want to sit in ER; sergeants don’t want to take two police off the streets.

Following is how you can make 911 & the police overcome their reluctance to help.

When calling 911, the best way to get quick action is to say, “Violent EDP.” Or “Suicidal EDP.” EDP stands for Emotionally Disturbed Person. This shows the operator that you know what you’re talking about. Describe the danger very specifically. “He’s a danger to himself” is not as good as “This morning my son said he was going to jump off the roof.” Be specific. “He’s a danger to others” is not as good as “My son has just struck a neighbor for no reason.” Also, give past history of violence. This is especially important if the person is not acting up. Again, be specific. “Every time my son gets psychotic, he has hurt himself. Last spring, he cut his wrists. I think he’s going to do it again.” MAKE IT CLEAR THAT THE PERSON HAS NO WEAPONS (if true). Make it clear that you are calling police to have the person evaluated for involuntary admission.

When the police come, they need compelling evidence that the person is a danger to self or others before they can involuntarily take him or her to ER for evaluation. If the person stops acting out by the time police arrive, this can be difficult. Again, give specific recent examples of danger.

Realize that you & the cops are at cross purposes. You want them to take someone to the hospital. They don’t want to do it. You need to get on common ground with the cops to gain their cooperation. Say, “Officer, I understand your reluctance. Let me spell out for you the problems & the danger. I understand that if you take my son to the ER involuntarily, you’ll have to wait with him until the doctors make a decision on whether to admit. I also understand your concern about litigation if you take him involuntarily. Therefore, why don’t we work together so my son goes voluntarily.” Cops will often change their attitude dramatically if you say this. If a person goes voluntarily, the cops don’t have to stay in the ER. They don’t have to use handcuffs. If a person goes involuntarily, they go the same way, except in handcuffs. This can often be used to convince a person to go voluntarily. You can say, ” I know you don’t want to go, but I think you need to go.” The cops can say, “You’re going to go one way or another, cuffs or no cuffs.” Usually the person will go voluntarily when faced with this choice.

Once the person is taken to the ER, cops leave. So it’s a good idea to have a family member accompany the patient. Let the ER security guard, triage nurse, & others know that the person is MI & a danger to self or others. When you go to ER, make sure you have the “How to Prepare for Emergencies” form that is in this newsletter (Note: This is a form with the name, address, SS#, Med history, current med, diagnosis, name and number of doctor, name and number of next of kin, insurance, etc. In otherwords, all the info you would be asked in an emergency).

911 should be first resort in an immediate emergency, & the last resort when it’s not. If your family member needs help, not necessarily hospitalization, try Mobile Crisis Intervention Services.

While AMI/FAMI is not suggesting you do this, the fact is that some families have learned to ‘turn over the furniture’ before calling the police. Many police require individuals with neurobiological disorders to be imminently dangerous before treating the person against their will. If the police see furniture disturbed they will usually conclude that the person is imminently dangerous. (Addendum: Many have objected to me reporting that some families have learned to do this. -ed)

Following is excellent info from NAMI Glendale, CA.