Dealing with the Criminal Justice System

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					             Resources for Dealing with the Criminal Justice System
       for Individuals with Mental Illness and Their Families and Friends
            Prepared by Patsy Koning and Ingrid Waldron, NAMI PA, Main Line - May, 2010

Unfortunately, many individuals with mental illness have encounters with the criminal justice system.
To help these individuals and those who support them, we have compiled resources in three sections:
    Preventing Arrest
    Criminal Justice System Procedures and Advice Relating to Individuals with Mental Illness
    Resources for People in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area.

Although the advice provided should be helpful, it is not legal advice. It is important to obtain the
services of a lawyer for someone who is in police custody. Try to prevent the police from questioning a
family member with mental illness without a lawyer present. The resources listed in the second section
provide advice about how to find a lawyer, and the contact information for Public Defenders in the
Philadelphia region are provided in the last section.

                                             Preventing Arrest

The best way to avoid problems with the criminal justice system is to avoid arrest by arranging for
ongoing and/or emergency treatment before the situation escalates to necessitate police involvement.
It may also be helpful to notify the police in advance that a person has a mental illness, so the police
can respond in an informed manner if an emergency arises. The following paragraphs provide
resources to help with both of these suggested approaches, as well as a resource to try to locate a
missing loved one before they become involved with the police.

Treatment and Crisis Intervention
Obviously the best way to prevent arrest of an individual with mental illness is effective treatment to
avoid a mental health crisis. Programs such as assertive community treatment (PACT) can help to
prevent relapse and mental health crises. Many resources for finding treatment, including free or low-
cost treatment, are available in "How to Get Services" and "Resources for People with Mental Illness
and Their Families in the Philadelphia metropolitan area", both available at
(http://www.nami.org/sites/NAMIPAMainLine). For additional information, contact your local NAMI affiliate
(http://www.nami.org) and/or your County Office of Behavioral Health or Mental Health/Mental
Retardation.

If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, you may need to call 911 (e.g. if there is
immediate danger of physical harm). However, if it is safe to do so, you may reduce the risk that a
mental health crisis will result in an arrest by calling a crisis line with staff who are specifically trained
for dealing with mental health crises. Someone is available 24 hours/day, 7 days/week to assess the
situation, arrange for an in-person evaluation, and/or make referrals as needed. Phone numbers for
crisis lines in the Philadelphia metropolitan area are provided in the last section.

There are times when an individual is involved in a serious and potentially life-threatening psychiatric
emergency or severe behavioral health crisis and is unwilling or unable to consent to treatment. State
law empowers the County MH/MR Administrator to authorize mental health treatment without the
individual’s consent. This process is known as involuntary commitment or civil commitment. For more
information on the involuntary commitment process, go to
http://mces.org/quest/MCES_Quest_June_2003.pdf.

A Mental Health Advance Directive is an important tool for people with mental illness that focuses on
wellness and recovery planning. An Advance Directive can include a Power of Attorney where an
individual authorizes a designated mental health care agent to make treatment decisions on his/her
behalf in the event of a mental health crisis. To download a copy of Mental Health Advance Directives
for Pennsylvanians go to http://drnpa.org/File/publications/directions-for-using-the-combined-mental-health-
advance-directive-declaration-and-power-of-attorney-form.pdf or you can call us at 267-251-6240 for a copy
(supply is limited).

Notifying First Responders That You or Your Family Member Has a Mental Illness before a
Problem Arises
The Pennsylvania Premise Alert System provides families with a uniform method to alert first
responders with information about persons who have mental illness, allowing for quick and educated
responses during crises. Only legal guardians, those with Power of Attorney or the person with the
mental illness can complete the standardized form. There is no fee. Copies of the form should be
given to the local police. The information will be put into the 9-1-1 system for future use. The
information should be updated every year or two. For a free copy of the form go to
http://www.papremisealert.com/

Residents can download a similar form with instructions specific to Philadelphia. This form also should
be given to the local police. Go to http://philadelphia.nami.org/policefiremedadainfoform.pdf

The Vial of Life project provides important information for first responders when a person is unable to
communicate this information. Information about medications, copy of advance directive, etc. is put in
the vial, and the vial and a Vial of Life decal are put on the refrigerator. A second decal is placed on the
front door. Since this is not a wide-spread program in this area it’s probably a good idea to notify
fire/police that you have this information available. For a Vial of Life kit, go to
http://vialoflife.com/?gclid=CJ_EkNvkkqECFd1n5QodrVJ_Mw

Missing Persons
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons Database allows the general public to add new missing
persons, add physical and circumstantial details, photographs, dental contacts and other critical pieces
of information, create and print missing persons posters and track cases. Go to
https://www.findthemissing.org/

                            Criminal Justice System Procedures and
                         Advice Relating to Individuals with Mental Illness

For a very helpful brief overview (which can be particularly useful if you need key information quickly in
a crisis situation), see Dealing with the Criminal Justice System, available at
http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Helpline1/Dealing_with_the_Criminal_Justice_System.htm

For a very informative discussion of the procedures and terminology of the criminal justice system, as
well as much helpful advice, see A Guide to Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System, available
at
http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Policy/Issues_Spotlights/Criminalization/Guide_to_Mental_Illness_a
nd_the_Criminal_Justice_System.pdf

Additional advice and information are available from:

How to Help When a Person with Mental Illness is Arrested, a joint project of NAMI NY State and the
Urban Justice Center at http://www.urbanjustice.org/pdf/publications/mentalhealth/MI2-Rep.pdf

Understanding the Criminal Justice System, NAMI CT at
http://www.nami.org/Content/Microsites146/NAMI_of_Connecticut,_Inc/Home135/Criminal_Jusitice1/mh_handboo
k.pdf
                 Resources for People in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area

If you or your loved one are about to have or have had an encounter with the police, you should seek
resources in the county where the incident is occurring/has occurred (even if this is different from the
county of residence).

Chester County
    Crisis Line (for help in a mental health crisis; but call 911 if there is an immediate danger of
      physical harm) - 610-918-2100 or 877-918-2100
    Mental Health Recovery Court (to divert arrested offenders with mental illness from
      incarceration; see the brochure at
      http://dsf.chesco.org/mhidd/lib/mhidd/pdfs/mental_health_court_brochure_(2).pdf; accessed via the
      ADAPT program; call the Bail Agency, 610-344-6886, Chester County Mental Health, 610-344-
      6265, and/or Chester County Adult Probation and Parole, 610-344-6290
    NAMI PA Chester County has prepared a very helpful booklet with a wealth of additional
      information (e.g. on the Mental Health Protocol which provides a way for an offender to receive
      treatment in the community where there are more resources available than in jail); NAMI PA
      Chester County can also provide additional information and support - 610-430-0177
    Public Defender (free lawyers for low income criminal defendants) - 610-344-6940

Delaware County
    Crisis Line (for help in a mental health crisis; but call 911 if there is an immediate danger of
      physical harm) - 610-352-4703
    Contact the County Office of Behavioral Health (610-713-2365) for information about available
      resources such as the mental health treatment court and probation/parole officers specialized to
      help mentally ill offenders. If an individual has a case manager, the case manager can help in
      accessing the available resources.
    Public Defender (free lawyers for low income criminal defendants) - 610-891-4100
    For additional information and support, contact NAMI PA, Delaware County – 610-623-0071

Montgomery County
   Montgomery County Emergency Services provides a "24/7" crisis line, jail diversion which can
     take place in the community before an arrest or after an individual is in police custody,
     psychiatric services for people in the Montgomery County Correctional Facility, initial involuntary
     psychiatric evaluations and inpatient treatment, and other services. MCES is often able to divert
     individuals with mental illness from the criminal justice system to mental health services. A full
     description of MCES services is available at http://www.mces.org/index.html. Contact them at 610-
     279-6100 or 800-452-4189.
   For crisis services for children and adolescents, call ACCESS - 215-540-2150.
   Community Advocates for Montgomery County provides peer support to help individuals with
     mental illness navigate the criminal justice system and hopefully receive mental health services
     rather than be imprisoned - 610-270-0375
   Public Defender (free lawyers for low income criminal defendants) - 610-278-3295
   For additional information and support, contact NAMI PA, Montgomery County – 215-886-0350

Philadelphia
    Crisis Line (for help in a mental health crisis; but call 911 if there is an immediate danger of
      physical harm) - 215-686-4420
      We were not able to identify any jail diversion program specifically for individuals with mental
       illness, but there is a Philadelphia Treatment Court for drug-involved defenders (215-683-3788).
      Information concerning general forensic and legal services in Philadelphia is available at the
       local NAMI affiliates’ website at http://philadelphia.nami.org/forensic.html.
      Public Defender (free lawyers for low income criminal defendants) - 215-568-3190
      For additional information and support, contact one of the Philadelphia affiliates of NAMI;
       contact information available at http://philadelphia.nami.org/affiliates.html.


For additional information and support, contact us at 267-251-6240 or mainline@nami.org. Please send any
comments, corrections or suggestions to pkoning@nami.org.

				
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