At times, the fine line between mental illness and criminal activity can be hard to distinguish. Helping to uphold the law is one thing. Deciphering mental illness is quite another.
Armed with knowledge as their most formidable weapon, medical personnel must take on many different hats and make these decisions routinely, determining if a patient goes to the hospital for further observation or to the slammer.
Last week, Clark County Circuit Court No. 1 Judge Dan Moore invited these front-line “heroes” to a luncheon in their honor at the courthouse. While the meeting served as a way to thank those in the mental health community for a job well done, it also allowed for court personnel and these workers to connect with each other and learn how they can better work toward their common goals.
“The reason why we started this several years ago was we saw a big need in our community for mental health professionals to kind of get on the same page with law enforcement, other legal professionals and the court system,” said Ashley Oliver, Clark Memorial Hospital’s lead therapist and community liaison.
Working collectively with law enforcement officials, those in the mental health field can help lessen the strain on the court system by diverting medically ill patients from overcrowded jails. Perceived nonviolent criminal behavior might, in some instances, be nothing more than a person with an illness going off their medication. Once prescriptions are reintroduced and families are called, patients often quickly return to their everyday, law-abiding selves.
Of course, not everyone necessarily wants help for their mental illness. In these instances, Indiana law provides a process that essentially overrules the person’s objections and holds the patient against their choice. Called an emergency detention order, a petitioner may ask the court to decide if a patient needs to be psychologically evaluated at a local medical facility.