When a mental health emergency lands you in jail
POSTED SEPTEMBER 25, 2017, 7:00 AM CDT
Early last year, two suicidal patients showed up at a hospital emergency room in Pierre, South Dakota, seeking help. Although the incidents happened weeks apart, both patients ended up in an unexpected place: jail.
Across the country, and especially in rural areas, people in the middle of a mental health crisis are locked in a cell when a hospital bed or transportation to a hospital isn’t immediately available. The patients are transported from the ER like inmates, handcuffed in the back of police vehicles. Laws in five states — New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming — explicitly say that correctional facilities may be used for what is called a “mental health hold.” Even in states without such laws, the practice happens…
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