What is an emergency detention?

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Wisconsin statutes give police the authority to place a person on an emergency mental health detention for his or her own protection or the protection of others. Two things are required to place someone on detention, said Ron Diamond, professor of psychology at UW-Madison and the medical director of the Mental Health Center of Dane County.

-- The person must be considered dangerous.

-- The person must be mentally ill.

“For purposes of emergency detention, mental illness is a disorder causing a substantial impairment of mood, thought or behavior,” Diamond said.

When the system works, police coordinate with mental health workers to protect a person who is having a mental health crisis, Diamond said.

Diamond lead a training session in October for police and crisis workers in Rock County. About 30 people from Rock County Crisis Intervention and the majority of the police departments in the county—including Edgerton—attended the class, said Elizabeth Pohlman McQuillen, Rock County criminal justice system planner/analyst.

In Rock County, police start emergency detention paperwork when they arrive on the scene of a person having a mental health crisis. From the scene, officers call crisis intervention and talk to a mental health worker.

The crisis worker asks questions to make an initial assessment. Police might have to take the person in crisis to the hospital for medical clearance.

Inpatient psychiatric facilities, such as Winnebago or Mendota, require medical clearance before they can accept a patient because they are not medical facilities.

Once the person gets medically cleared, police will drive the person to crisis intervention for a mental health assessment. Crisis workers will determine if the person needs inpatient or outpatient treatment.

If crisis workers determine an emergency mental detention is appropriate, the person is placed in the least restrictive place of treatment for 72 hours. Most of the time, that means a hospital, Diamond said. In Rock County, people on emergency detention can also stay at Jackson House, a crisis stabilization facility.

Rock County Crisis Intervention has the authority to dismiss an emergency detention. Whenever possible, crisis workers try to ensure a person gets voluntary treatment rather than involuntary, said Denny Luster, crisis intervention supervisor.

Police should use crisis workers as a “tool” to determine if an emergency detention is appropriate, Diamond said.

When the system doesn’t work, it might be because police and mental health workers don’t see eye to eye, Diamond said.

“Police and clinicians have a different language,” Diamond said. “They don’t always play nice together at 3 a.m.”

Last updated: 11:00 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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