Jail Mental Health Contact for Families
My Family Member Has Been Arrested - What Do I Do?
STEP ONE: SUPPORT YOUR RELATIVE
- If your family member calls you and says that he/she has been arrested, help him/her stay calm and offer your help and support.
- If your family member/friend is being held in a city jail, remind him/her of the right to have an attorney present if being questioned by police officers or detectives.
- If he/she is already at the county jail (Santa Rita or Glen Dyer Detention Facility), he/she will be screened upon arrival for mental illness, as well as other health concerns. It is very important that your relative be direct and honest to benefit as much as possible from this screening process. Assure your family member that it is OK to discuss his/her physical and mental conditions, diagnoses, medications, etc., with the staff conducting the screening. The initial health screening will be done by a medical nurse.
- If it is determined that your relative needs a more thorough mental health assessment, he or she will be seen by mental health staff (CJMH) either the same day in the booking section of the jail or later, depending upon urgency. Due to the high volume of inmates booked into the county jails, it is necessary for persons to be triaged based on the severity of their conditions. The scheduling of assessments is done on a priority basis. It is important that your family member feels safe to speak openly with the mental health screeners so that treatment needs can be best addressed.
- All persons booked into GDDF in Oakland who need mental health services will be transferred to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
- NOTE: To find out if your relative is in jail, you can use the Inmate Locator link by going to www.acgov.org and clicking on “Online Services” (Scroll down to “Other Services” and click on Inmate Locator). You may also want to access the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office website for further information about the jail, visiting hours, etc. This website can also be located by going to www.acgov.org., clicking on “Departments” and scrolling down to “Sheriff’s Office”.
- Call the jail mental health (CJMH) intake unit (ITR) 925-551-6905. Inform the staff or leave a message that your family member suffers from a serious mental illness and describe the diagnosis and any other concerns you might have. Inquire as to your relative’s status and estimated length of stay at this facility (if known). Ask if he/she is expected to be released directly from the jail. If he/she is going to be released directly from the jail (this sometimes occurs for minor offenses), ask for the time and place, if known, so you can be there to provide transportation. If your relative is severely ill, ask if the ITR staff can arrange to have him/her taken to a psychiatric hospital for a “5150” involuntary three-day hold for evaluation and treatment.
- Inquire as to your family member’s location (housing unit and pod number) and, most importantly, his/her booking number (PFN).
- The Sheriff’s Department can provide you with information about visiting your relative at the jail by going online to www.acgov.org. and accessing the Sheriff’s Department’s website.
- TIP: When visiting the jail always bring a few quarters for a locker to store your personal belongings while you visit your family member. Photo ID is also required.
- Click on the Inmate Mental Health Information Form, English Version or Spanish Version on this web page. Print, complete, and fax as instructed below.
- The medical information you provide is very helpful in assisting the mental health staff in making an assessment and selecting the best treatment for your relative while he or she is in custody. Continuity of care is important; 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. For safety reasons, some psychiatric medications cannot be used in the jail
- Be sure to provide your contact information and sign the form on the signature line. Forms that do not contain your contact information and/or are missing a signature will not be considered valid.
- On the fax 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 written consent, but the staff can receive information from relatives or friends without the client’s consent.
- Once your relative has been booked, fax the Inmate Mental Health Information Form to the number below. Faxes can be sent 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Mental Health Services (CJMH) fax number:
ITR (CJMH intake/booking) 925-551-6504
If you have any difficulty with this process you can contact the following resources that are specifically available to assist families who have relatives with serious mental illnesses.
- the Mental Health Association Family Caregiver Advocate Program at 510-835-0188 or 510-835-5010 and www.mhaac.org.
- the Behavioral Health Care Services Family Relations Manager at 510-567-8037
- the Family Resource and Education Center (FERC) at 888-869-FERC (3372). www.askferc.org
Bail: Think carefully about posting bail for your family member. No one wants a loved one to remain incarcerated for any length of time. It is an unpleasant experience for them as well as the family. However, you must ask yourself the following question. Will your family member be able to comply with the terms of the bail and appear in court when required? Also, as hard as it may seem, jail may be a safer place for a person with severe mental illness who is in crisis rather than having your loved one wander the streets with no help at all. At least in jail they will be fed, will have shelter, and be given access to medication treatments.
Working with an attorney: If your relative will be represented in court by a public defender, call the Public Defender’s office at the court where the case is being heard and ask for the name and phone number of the attorney who will be handling the case. If you do not reach the attorney, be sure to leave a message requesting a return call with your name, phone number, your family member’s name and, if possible, the case number (PFN) and court date. Due to the attorney-client confidentiality requirement, there will be information the attorney may not be able to share with you. Remember, it is your family member, not you, who is the attorney’s client.
Inform the attorney of your family member’s condition and any information that may be beneficial to the case. Provide the attorney with an extensive medical/psychiatric/social/educational history of your family member in writing. Include hospitalization, diagnosis information, medication treatment, and the contact information of those doctors/clinicians and of facilities that have treated your family member in the past. This information will be very useful in pursuing the best outcome for your loved one. Attorneys are extremely busy and many will appreciate written or faxed correspondence.
Public Defenders’ Offices in Alameda County:
Supporting and coping with a loved one who suffers from a mental illness can be extremely challenging and stressful. Knowledge, as well as your love and fortitude, will be essential in helping you to become a strong and effective support system for your family member. For information about support groups and educational programs provided free of charge in your area, contact any of the numbers listed above in Step Four or contact NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, at 213-632-0782 or on the internet at www.namicalifornia.org, or.
Updated April 16, 2008
NAMI Los Angeles Criminal Justice Committee
Edited August 26, 2009, BHCS Criminal Justice Mental Health Services