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Insight from WFPD: What to do when someone you know needs treatment

It is daily that personnel of the West Fargo Police Department are faced with situations relating to a person's mental health or chemical dependency issues. An estimated ninety percent of those booked into jail have difficulties related to chemical dependency. Chemical dependency and mental health are the two most common underlying factors relating to a person's involvement in the criminal court system.

Law enforcement, correctional systems and mental health professionals are working more closely in a joint effort to address all issues which interfere with a person's rehabilitation and treatment. It is recognized that a person's chemical dependency or mental health must be treated in order to reduce the eighty-three percent rate of recidivism. The costs of a successful intervention and treatment program are far lower than the costs associated with continued criminal conduct.

Not all people with chemical dependency or mental health difficulties end up in jail. Some come into contact with law enforcement through requests for medical assistance. Chemical dependency can result in long-term and debilitating health effects. Chronic abuse may cause organ damage and even death. Chemical dependency and mental health issues also affect the ability of a person to provide the proper day-to-day nutritional and hygiene requirements necessary to maintain proper health. The increased costs associated with the treatment of medical conditions relating to chemical dependency and mental health places further burden on medical system resources and social service providers.

Chemical dependency and mental health treatment is a community effort. The West Fargo Police Department has compiled the following answers to the most common questions relating to chemical dependency and mental health treatment.

Q: Someone I know needs help where can I turn?

A #1: If the person is in need of immediate medical attention or poses a threat to themselves or others, contact medical and law enforcement services by calling 911. A person's medical condition takes priority over mental health or chemical dependency treatment. Law enforcement is allowed to take a person into custody for treatment and is trained in emergency commitment procedures.

A #2: If the person does not need immediate medical attention and does not pose a threat to themselves or others there are a number of options available: a. employee assistance programs through their or your employer, b. local treatment facilities:

Southeast Human Service Center, 2624 9th Ave. S., Fargo, 298-4500; Department of Veteran's Affairs, VA Medical Center, 2101 Elm St. N., Fargo, 232-3241; Innovis Health Emergency Department, 3000 32nd Ave. S., Fargo, 364-8400; MeritCare Hospital Emergency Room, 720 4th St. N., Fargo, 234-5121; Prairie St Johns, 510 4th St. S., Fargo, 701-476-7216; Centre Inc.,123 15th St. N., Fargo, 237-3341

Q: Someone I know needs help but refuses to seek treatment what can I do?

A: If you believe someone is in need of treatment but they refuse to seek help you may request the person to be evaluated by completing N.D. Supreme Court SFN 17260 and submitting the completed form to the States Attorney's Office for their action. The Cass County States Attorney's Office is located at 211 9th St. S. in Fargo. They can be reached at 701-241-5850. The form is available at the West Fargo Police Web site:

Q: Can I get in trouble for requesting treatment for someone when they do not want help?

A: No, not if you are completing the request for treatment for the purpose of helping someone in need. The following is from the ND Century Code: A. NDCC 25-03.1-42 Limitation of liability - Penalty for false petition - 1. a person acting in good faith upon either actual knowledge or reliable information who makes the petition for involuntary treatment of another person under this chapter is not subject to civil or criminal liability; 2. a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health professional, employee of a treatment facility, state's attorney, or peace officer who in good faith exercises professional judgment in fulfilling an obligation or discretionary responsibility under this chapter is not subject to civil or criminal liability for acting unless it can be shown that it was done in a negligent manner; 3. a person who makes a petition for involuntary treatment of another person without having good cause to believe that the person is suffering from mental illness or chemical dependency and as a result is likely to cause serious harm to self or others is guilty of a class A Misdemeanor.

Q: If the person does not have insurance or an employee assistance program who pays for the evaluation and treatment?

A: The county in which the person resides will be responsible for the costs for court ordered evaluation and treatment as indicated in the following: NDCC 25-03.1-10 Involuntary treatment - Court-ordered examination (incomplete cite.) 1. If the petition is not accompanied by a written supportive statement of a psychiatrist, physician, or psychologist who has examined the respondent within the last forty-five days, the court shall order the respondent to be examined by an expert examiner of the respondent's own choice or one appointed by the court: 2. The costs of the court-ordered examination must be borne by the county that is the respondent's place of residence.