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Advocacy Unlimited - Recovery and advocacy education for people with mental health and/or addiction issuesAdvocacy Unlimited, Inc. - Comprehensive education in recovery and advocacy skills for people in recovery from mental health and/or addiction issues

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What if the Police Come…

What if the Police Come to Take You to the Hospital?

Having the police come to take you to the hospital is undoubtedly a very stressful event. However, everything that happens may depend on your staying as calm as possible. You are probably in the middle of a very stressful situation to begin with, and having someone you know call the cops on you quite naturally upsets you even more.

It will be even more upsetting when several police officers arrive, not just one. Actually, there is a reason more than one police officer usually responds. The police don't know what to expect, and several of them together have a better chance of restraining a person if necessary without hurting him or her. And, it can be even more aggravating if the police officers act or talk in a way that is insensitive or intimidating. So, even if this is the sanest day of your life, you will have a lot of good reasons to be upset.

But, you have even better reasons to act calm. Everything you say or do may go into a psychiatric report later. Also, the more excited you act, the more likely the police are to interpret your behavior as evidence that they really should take you to the hospital. The fact that this is not fair or logical is not going to help you. What will help is to take a few deep breaths, put on your most businesslike manners, and discuss the situation with the police officers.

First decide whether you want to go to the hospital. Visiting a psychiatric emergency room is not always the right answer, but it is not always the wrong answer either. If you feel the need to go to the hospital, tell the police that you are going with them voluntarily.

If you do not feel that you need to go to the hospital, ask the officers whether they intend to take you into custody. Explain to them that you will not go voluntarily, but if you are being taken into custody, you will go quietly and will not resist.

If the police are going to take you to the hospital against your will, they will be taking you into custody. They can do this without violating your Constitutional rights, but only if they have good reason to believe that you are a danger to yourself or others.

If you do not wish to go to the hospital, but the police indicate that they are prepared to take you into custody or take you to the hospital against your will, explain that you are not a danger to yourself or others, and that there is no good reason for them to believe you are. This can work if you can keep yourself calm.

The police might think that they have a good reason ("probable cause") based on what the person who called the police has told them. However, that person may have no psychiatric training at all and may have his or her own reasons for saying, or believing, that you are dangerous.

If so, point this out to the police. What you say may convince the police, but just the fact that you are able to discuss the matter with them rationally is even more likely to convince them. You are also putting them on notice, in a non-threatening way, that you know the relevant legal standards and are prepared to stand up for your rights.

If the police insist on taking you to the hospital against your will, get the names and badge numbers of the officers present. Write this information down if you can. Do your best to remember what the police officers looked and sounded like for those whose names you did not get.

If you are going to the hospital with the police, voluntarily or involuntarily, go quickly, and ask them not to make matters worse for you by restraining you unnecessarily. Use the trip to the hospital to try to calm yourself even further. Continue to take deep breaths or do whatever works for you.

When you arrive at the hospital, the first thing you should know is that you can refuse medication as long as your behavior does not convince the doctors that there is an emergency. So again, stay calm.

Ask to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible and repeat to the doctor the same things you explained to the police. Again, be as calm and businesslike as you can manage to be. Remember the name of the doctor, and any other hospital employee you talk to. Write down their names if possible. Again, you should try to remember the descriptions of the people you talk to, especially if you are not able to get their names.

The second thing to remember is that you have the right to free legal representation. Ask to use a phone and contact either:

Ask for a lawyer or advocate as soon as possible. CLRP and PAIMI are not a part of the hospital, and there is no fee. They are open 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday.

Your advocate or lawyer will advise you about your rights as a patient and will advocate to get you out of the hospital as quickly as possible. This may involve a hearing before a judge.

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