It was a holiday weekend in the middle of the night. The booking area of the jail was a big, open, noisy pit with people sitting in plastic chairs, watching TV or on phones and the officers either behind desks or circling the perimeter. It was filling up. A staff member was completing initial mental health screenings in a corner of the open room, up on a platform and behind a computer. She had the electronic health record open to the mental health screening form and she was going through each “yes/no” question, reading from the computer screen and not looking at the recently arrested individual, a young man picked up on a possession charge.
“Are you currently taking any medications for mental health problems?” “No.”
“Have you ever been hospitalized for mental health reasons?” “No.”
“Are you currently thinking about hurting or killing yourself?” Pause. Swallow. “No.”
“Have you ever been treated for withdrawal from drugs or alcohol?” “No.”
She missed it. She missed the pause; she missed the swallow.Continue reading