Concerning Behavior – What to do?
It seems that more and more, we are seeing news stories about senseless acts of violence by people who are mentally ill, including some recent incidents here in Ukiah. And, in the wake of the recent Sandy Hill school shootings, lawmakers and others are pushing for legislation to improve mental health services in hopes of reducing these terrible events.
In fact, President Obama has asked for “a national dialogue” on mental health services, and a number of federal bills are being considered by Congress.
One bill receiving bipartisan support is the Excellence in Mental Health Act. This bill would require community health centers to enhance their mental healthcare services in three ways: by offering 24-hour emergency services, incorporating more support for families of the mentally ill, and increasing the integration of mental health and substance use disorder treatment.
Here in Mendocino County, we really struggle to afford the services we need when it comes to mental health, crisis intervention, and the associated counseling services. Because our resources are so limited, Ukiah PD officers struggle daily to keep the public safe while trying to get mental health and crisis intervention support to those who urgently need these services.
Routinely, our officers are forced to wait for limited crisis intervention resources, or take physical force to restrain those who have been identified as a danger to themselves or others. These calls for police assistance significantly reduce our ability to respond to other calls for police service, and put our community and officers at risk.
To improve the situation, Mendocino County Health and Human Services Administration (HHSA) is currently evaluating proposals from organizations who are interested in providing mental health, crisis intervention, and counseling services for people in Mendocino County. Hopefully, by contracting with organizations that are already setup to care for the mentally ill, HHSA will be able to obtain better services with fewer funds and provide the community and law enforcement with the crisis intervention services we desperately need.
While the debate continues (locally, statewide, and nationally) about precisely what level of mental health and crisis intervention services are needed, those who need help need a place to turn.
For people with friends or family members who are mentally ill, depressed, or is in crisis, here are some general guidelines, and resources to help determine an appropriate course of action for someone in distress.
HIGH-RISK BEHAVIORS: High-risk behaviors indicate an imminent safety risk to themselves or others and require immediate assistance from law enforcement. High-risk behaviors include a combination of:
- Expressed intent to harm self or others
- Intense or uncontrolled anger
- Brandishing a weapon
- Excessive drug and alcohol abuse
- Fighting or assaultive behavior
- Overt threats to kill
- Suicide attempt or threat
- Bizarre delusions or hallucinations
What to do: Call local law enforcement (911) and describe the problem. Local law enforcement will respond and obtain assistance from other community partners, like Mental Health Services.
MODERATE-RISK BEHAVIORS: Moderate-risk behaviors are not usually life threatening, but may be a sign that the individual’s ability to cope is being challenged. Examples include:
- Irritability with other or acting out in anger
- Erratic behavior
- Expressing hopelessness or helplessness
- Serious emotional distress
- Indications of alcohol or drug use interfering with academic or social performance
- Indirect threats to self or others
- Comments about weapons
What to do: Refer the individual to the Mental Health Crisis Line (800) 555-5906 or (707) 472-2304. People can also find assistance through Mendocino County’s 211 line. The 211 line is an informational referral center that connects people quickly and confidentially to phone services.
If you’d like to learn more, an excellent place to start is the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, www.nami.org.
The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis (and their families and friends) with help through a confidential toll-free hotline or text messaging. Veterans and their loved ones can call (800) 273-8255, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support.
Sometimes, our veterans returning home from active duty struggle to readjust to civilian life. For those returning from a deployment, an excellent resource is www.afterdeployment.org. Many Armed Service members report adjustment problems, including depression and other mental health issues in the months following a deployment.
For those interested in learning more, Manzanita Services will be providing certificated training on Mental Health First Aid on February 21-22 in Fort Bragg, at the Town Hall from 8:30-4pm daily. This program is intended for a variety of audiences, including friends and family of individuals with mental illness and/or addiction, professionals, faith communities, or anyone interested in learning more about mental illness and addiction.
On the Ukiah Police Department website (www.ukiahpolice.com), we have posted this information and these links where you can obtain more information.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.