Connecting Texans to information and resources for mental health and addiction

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How the Police Can Help

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If a person is acting irrationally due to his or her mental state and there is an immediate threat of danger to self or someone else, call 911 and inform the dispatcher that you are calling about a person diagnosed with a mental illness.

Calling 911

When you call 911, try to remain calm. Speak clearly; do not shout. The 911 operator will ask for the following important information:

  • Your name and address
  • Location of the incident
  • Name of the person in crisis
  • Your relationship to the person in crisis
  • A description of the person in crisis
  • Information on the person’s mental illness
  • The person’s diagnosis if known
  • Medications the person takes
  • If the person has stopped taking his/her medication
  • If the person is violent
  • Any history of violence
  • If there are any weapons at the location
  • What the person is doing, saying and/or experiencing
  • Use of any illegal and non-illegal substance(s)
When Law Enforcement Arrives:
  • If indoors, turn on all lights in the house so everyone can be clearly seen
  • Do not have anything in your hands when you meet the officer(s)
  • Walk, do not run, toward the officers
  • Remain at a distance of about 30 feet to secure the safety of yourself and the officer(s)
  • Calmly identify yourself
  • Calmly offer information you think might be helpful (anyone currently in the home, reason for the call, if the person has fled, etc.)
  • Be clear and concise
  • Follow any instructions the officer(s) provide

If a person is having a mental health crisis and police are called to the scene, officers may take the person into custody if his behavior indicates severe emotional distress or deterioration of a mental condition and they believe the person presents a substantial risk of serious harm to himself or other people.

This is called an Apprehension by Peace Officer Without Warrant (APOWW). The officer will transport the individual to a mental health facility or to the nearest hospital that provides mental health services.

What Happens Next

After an APOWW has occurred, police officers may file an application for detention, documenting the signs of mental illness and elements of risk observed. If there were threats, behavior, acts and attempts of harm to self or others, the police narrative will detail what happened and include the names of persons who reported or observed the behaviors.

Another Option: Mental Health Probate Court

Families are also able to seek a Mental Health/Chemical Dependency Warrant through a County Mental Health Probate Court.

Proactive Planning

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) encourages families of individuals with mental illness to put a plan in place to avoid the types of crisis events that can lead to an arrest. For instance, individuals might contact a peer program, call a crisis line, attend a group session, schedule a doctor’s appointment or take some other proactive action that has helped in the past.

Every time a crisis is prevented through proactive intervention and assistance, it reduces the likelihood of contact with law enforcement or a potential arrest.

NAMI’s Family-to-Family course includes a “Crisis File” that can help you prepare for mental health emergencies. Many NAMI Affiliates will help you prepare for those times when a crisis can’t be prevented.

If an assault occurs, most jurisdictions require officers to arrest an individual, in compliance with family violence laws. However, many law enforcement agencies attempt to decrease the odds of crisis situations leading to arrests by providing staff with crisis intervention training (CIT).

Texas peace officers are required to complete Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) and most agencies across the state have a CIT-trained officer on duty. In addition, a nearby agency may have a CIT-trained officer who can assist with this request. Contact your local police department to learn what resources are available for mental health crisis intervention.

Source: NAMI Dallas

The information on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, mental health providers, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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