February 19, 2019

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Intake Mental Health Screenings

Gordon Graham
Category: Corrections

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for corrections.

Conduct appropriate mental health screenings. And take them seriously.

Today’s Tip is for corrections officers. It deals with mental health screenings for people who are booked into jail. 

If you study jail litigation like I do you know that in-custody suicides can be a big problem. Every suicide is a terrible tragedy. We should be doing everything we can to preserve human life and protect inmates-even against themselves.  

Too often, family members will file a lawsuit against the agency. A typical claim might go something like this. They knew that the inmate was suicidal. Oat least they should have known. And the jail staff didn’t do enough to protect him.”  

How can we possibly figure out if someone is suicidal when they come into the jail? We can start by asking. As soon as possible. Not after two or three days. Not just during medical screening or classification. Ask about mental health issues. Ask about suicidal tendencies. Ask about past suicide attempts. Right away. Almost as soon as they arrive.  

Use a short and simple initial screening form that has been approved by your agencyAsk things like: Are you taking any medication? Do you receive mental health treatment? Are you thinking about harming yourselfAnd don’t just ask the questions. Document the responses too.  

If they answer “yes”, monitor them until they are seen by a mental health professional.  

You might be thinking that correctional staff shouldn’t ask about medical or mental health issues. That’s the job of the medical staff, right? Surely that would be prohibited by privacy laws or something. Now I’m not your attorney. And don’t take my word for it.  

Conduct appropriate mental health screenings. And take them seriously. This will promote safety and good order. It will save lives. And it might keep you and your department out of trouble too 

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off. 

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