Mental Health Response

Our patrol deputies respond to your 9-1-1 calls.  Sometimes they involve people who are mentally ill or in mental health crisis who are demonstrating increased symptoms and posing a safety risk to themselves or others.  If deputies have to take the person to jail, then what is a family to do?  

We understand the extreme stress you experience when your friend or family member is arrested, especially if they are in mental health crisis. You worry whether we understand their behaviors, if we will give them needed medications, and how they will be treated while in jail.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office and Jail have an outstanding system for responding to calls involving people who suffer from mental illness or who are in crisis. Critical support from Washington County Mental Health enables us to provide services in non-traditional settings when they can be most effective. Our collaborative problem solving approaches to providing mental health services are considered cutting edge for law enforcement and jail operations on the national level.
We want you to understand how we make mental health services available and how you can help support your friends and family members in crisis when police arrive, while they are in our jail, and when they are released.

Sheriff's Services


Calling for Help

It can be difficult to call police for help if your loved one is acting out in a dangerous way.  You may worry about embarrassment or even about what will happen if the police come.

It might help you to know that your Sheriff's Office is having remarkable success with a new system of mental health services that begins in patrol, continues into the jail, and supports people when they are released.  Our deputies are also trained to recognize when a person  is a danger to themself or others and needs to be taken to a hospital for mental health treatment (a police officer hold). 

We have built an entire system response centered on avoiding tragic outcomes and focusing on solving mental health issues at the earliest possible time in a crisis.  This does not mean deputies will never use physical force to bring an incident under control, but it does mean it will only happen in the situations the deputy perceives to be the most dangerous or volatile.  One key is to ensure citizens feel comfortable calling for help before a person's behavior escalates.

If you feel your safety or the safety of others is threatened, please call 9-1-1 to report the emergency

In non-emergency situations, you can refer a person via e-mail to the Mental Health Response Team (e-mails are checked daily) or call the non-emergency dispatch center at (503) 629-0111. 


Mental Health Response Team on Patrol

Washington County Sheriff's Patrol Deputies receive training to help them identify people who are in mental health crisis or suffering from mental illness.  They are also trained to use a variety of communication approaches and tactics based on the behaviors they observe during a call.

In addition, on the busiest shifts, a deputy dedicated to the Sheriff's Mental Health Response Team will respond to calls that appear to involve people in mental health crisis.  They will usually have a mental health clinician riding with them on patrol. The clinician brings a whole set of resources and expertise, that are traditionally not accessible to law enforcement, right to the person in crisis.

The combined response of a deputy and a clinician helps us resolve calls more effectively than a police response alone.  Most often a crime has not been committed, but we can still leave the person in crisis and their families headed in the right direction (without anyone going to jail).  

Washington County citizens are fortunate to have such collaboration between law enforcement and mental health on patrol.  Because of its success, we are hoping to expand this program to put more than one team on the road per shift.

The Mental Health Response Team is a countywide service provided by the Sheriff's Office in partnership with Washington County Mental Health, supporting deputies and any city police department located in the county. 



Jail Medical

While lodged in the Washington County Jail, inmates who are mentally ill or in crisis are given the best care possible.  We have 24 hour medical services, 7 days a week mental health care, and our deputies do an amazing job of monitoring and identifying inmates that need help, even if they are not asking.  Deputies can refer inmates for a mental health visit at any point, even if the inmate is not referred initially.   It is very seldom that someone slips through our system without getting the care they need.

From the moment a newly arrested person arrives in jail, our jail medical office has a Mental Health Team that goes into action.

Each inmate is walked through the jail intake process.

Every person who is arrested and taken to jail is visited by the intake nurse for a medical and mental health screening.  During the screening, inmates are encouraged to share their medical and mental history with medical staff.  However, even if the person does not self-report, our jail nurses are adept at identifying signs of mental illness or crisis.  They know what to look for and they can refer an inmate for mental health treatment even if the inmate does not disclose information to them. 

If the inmate is referred for a routine mental health visit, they will be seen within a week.  In acute cases, they will be seen within 24 hours.  A routine condition might include feelings of depression or anxiety, but no thoughts of suicide or self harm.  In this situation, the person will be visited by a mental health professional within 4 to 7 days.

Acute means the person is symptomatic and presenting as seriously mentally ill, such as having paranoid delusions, not being in touch with reality, or not understanding the seriousness of the situation.  Acute cases can look a little like being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but the effects do not dissipate as time passes.  In acute cases, the person will be seen by a mental health professional within 24 hours.

Also, jail deputies are trained to conduct initial mental health assessments and are continuously monitoring inmates throughout their stay in the jail.


The Jail's Special Needs Pod

You might also worry that your friend or family member is susceptible to being victimized by other inmates while they are in jail.  We do all we can to ensure that does not happen and we have two innovative housing alternatives for the inmates who need them.

First, the Special Needs Pod is a housing area dedicated to inmates with mental health issues, physical disabilities, or who are otherwise considered vulnerable.  The deputies selected to manage this area are given advanced mental health training to help them identify and respond to inmates with special needs.  By housing the medically fragile, elderly or other vulnerable inmates in one unit, the jail can more efficiently provide medications, medical care and other services because the inmates are concentrated in one housing unit rather than dispersed throughout the jail.  Inmates are not restricted to cells during their stay, in fact, they eat meals in a common area and they have access to television, board games, and jail programs as their behavior dictates.

Also, the mental health team in jail medical meets weekly with deputies assigned to the special needs pod to share ongoing training updates on mental health diagnosis, treatment, and practices.


The Medical Observation Unit

The medical observation unit is another housing choice that is used for the inmates who suffer from serious health conditions.  In some cases, inmates suffering acute mental health conditions qualify.  They are often receiving critical medications and medical treatment and need to be separated from other people due to their illness or behavioral responses.  This is also where suicidal inmates are housed.  In this unit, inmates receive more intensive monitoring by the deputies and by medical staff, and they are physically located next to the medical unit which is always open.  



Planning for Success and Medications Upon Release

We care about each inmate's success in the community after they leave our jail, and that includes those with continuing mental health needs.

For instance, if an inmate is in our custody for at least 30 days, we will ensure they have a 30-day supply of their medications when they leave the jail.  They will also receive counseling and a written discharge plan for continuing with mental health treatment and making other important contacts in the community for housing, employment, and other needs.  When they leave, they will have all the information and direction we can provide to help them to be successful and get the ongoing treatment they need.

If you are the person picking the inmate up when they are released from jail, you can ask them to show you the resource guide and their discharge plan.  It will help you to support their plan for success as well.

Note:  Jail medical needs at least 5 business days notice that an inmate will be released in order to prepare the 30-day supply of medications.  If an inmate is released from custody unexpectedly (such as by the court), a 30-day supply of medications will not be provided at the time of release.  However, if the inmate contacts the jail medical office after being released, medication can be ordered or called into a local pharmacy at the discretion of jail medical staff.


Planning for Severely Persistent Mentally Ill Inmates Upon Release

There is a small group of inmates who are considered severely and persistently mentally ill.  These are the people who will need outpatient mental health services and ongoing case management.  They were often active consumers of mental health services in Washington County before they were arrested.

To help ensure the continuity of care while they are in custody and upon release, Washington County Mental Health contributes a mental health liaison counselor who works full time assisting inmates in our jail.

When an inmate who is a consumer of mental health services arrives in the jail, the mental health liaison is notified.  The liaison contacts the person's case manager to share information about the inmate's charges and court dates, and also explains how the case manager can visit the person while they are in jail.

As an employee of Washington County Mental Health, the liaison and the inmate's case manager can openly talk and coordinate their services.  This helps to ensure that the most effective treatment practices continue.  The communication also reduces the risk that an inmate who normally receives mental health services in the community will "fall through the cracks" after being booked into the jail. 

When appropriate, the mental health liaison will also help formulate a discharge plan for inmates who are returning to the community.   The liaison's countywide services are focused on serving Washington County residents, however, inmates from other counties will also receive referral information as needed.

How You Can Help Your Friend or Family Member


STEP ONE:  When Deputies Arrive

If you are present when a deputy arrives, stay calm and give them time to ensure public safety and to assess the situation.  Remember they are trained to identify and respond to people in mental health crisis.  Let the deputy know you are available to share information when they are able to talk with you.

All our patrol deputies receive training to help them identify people who are in mental health crisis, and to have a variety of communication or tactical techniques to use depending on what happens during a call.  On the busiest shifts, Mental Health Response Team deputies even have a mental health clinician riding with them on patrol.  

We cannot guarantee a deputy will never use physical force to bring a situation under control, but the combined response of a deputy and a clinician gives the deputy more options at the scene.  Even if a crime has not been committed, we strive to leave the person who in crisis and their families headed in the right direction (without anyone going to jail).


STEP TWO:   Confirming a Person is in Our Jail

You can use our website to confirm whether your friend or family member is in the Washington County Jail.

You can search our online jail custody database by last name:  search our database.  The system will quickly tell you the date of arrest, charges, and other helpful information.  You can also call the jail at (503) 846-6826.  

If a deputy took the person to the hospital for treatment instead of jail and they are an adult, we will be able to tell you the name of the hospital, but nothing more.  You will need to contact the hospital directly and meet their requirements to receive additional information.  This is due to HIPAA restrictions.   


STEP THREE:  Support Your Loved One 

If your family member or friend calls to tell you they have been arrested, help them to remain calm and offer your help and support.   The information on this page will help you understand how our systems work, so you can help us to help the inmate.  You can also explain or share this information if the inmate calls you.
Assure the person that it is okay for them to talk freely about their physical or mental condition, diagnosis, and medications with jail medical staff.
Rest assured, they will automatically be given a chance to contact an attorney and they will be screened for mental illness and other health issues upon arrival.



STEP FOUR:  Share Helpful Information with Jail Staff
You can provide information to jail medical staff on the inmate's mental health diagnosis and prescription medications.
Medications can be available within 24 hours if the inmate signs a release.  If an inmate discloses that they are on prescription medication(s) and they sign a release for their pharmacy or clinic to communicate with jail medical staff, the medications can be started within 24 hours.
We know that often the most acute patients, those who are bipolar for example, tend not to report and share information on medications.  The most helpful information you can provide is about prescribed medications.  If you bring a current prescription pill bottle to the jail lobby, medical staff will be able to order the medication right away and offer it to the inmate within 24hours.

You can share information about the inmate's diagnosis with jail medical staff.  HIPAA is a federal act that prevents jail medical staff from disclosing to anyone medical information on an inmate, unless the inmate signs a release giving us permission to do so.  However, you can legally share any medical information openly with jail medical staff.   Call Jail Medical at (503) 846-6358.


Please understand that if you are a victim or related to the criminal charges that brought the inmate to jail, we will not ask the inmate to sign a release and we will not talk to you about any medical or mental health information.


STEP FIVE:  Contacting or Helping an Inmate

You can contact or help an inmate in several other ways too.  

Use the links on our Jail website to access information about phone calls, visiting in person, video visiting, and mail rules.   We encourage you to go to the website first when you have a question.


STEP SIX:  Support for You

Take time to care for yourself emotionally and physically.

Caring for or supporting a family member or friend in mental health crisis or who suffers from a mental illness can take a toll on the caregiver.  When you need to talk through a challenge or find someone who can give good advice, considering reaching out to one of these organizations:

 We Thank Our Partners in Mental Health


Providing this system of mental health services is the result of daily collaboration between the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the Washington County Mental Health Department.  Many dedicated, patient and creative people in both departments generously invest their hearts and skills to build a system that is so far unique in the nation.

We are also proud to support the efforts of the Washington County Mental Health Court, yet another growing part of the system adapting to meet today's needs. 

This important work not only ensures mental health services to those in need, it also improves public safety.