How to Handle an Acute Mental Illness Crisis at Home  

STEP 1

  • For suicide attempt in progress, phone 911 first.

  • For suicide intervention, call Alachua County Crisis Center Crisis Hotline, (352)-264-6789, or National Crisis hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

  • For a missing mentally ill family member, call Alachua County Sheriff Missing Persons. Business hours phone (352)-367-4050. Weekends and after 5:30 pm phone (352)- 955-1818.

  • For a medical condition that needs medical attention (for example: drug overdose, epilepsy seizures, profuse bleeding from self-inflicted injury), phone 911, or take your loved one to a hospital emergency room.

  • For all other non-suicide mental illness crisis situations, and situations that don't involve medical attention, go to Step 2 below.

 

STEP 2

If there is no suicide or serious medical condition, and if your mentally ill loved one does not need 911 help, but they can be safely transported by you in your car to a crisis stabilization unit, then first phone one of these units: 

  • Meridian Crisis Stabilization Unit, 4300 SW 13 Street, Gainesville, FL 32614

    • Gainesville: call (352)-374-5600, follow instructions for “emergency services” or choose option 3.

    • Outside Gainesville: call 1-800-330-5615, follow instructions for “emergency services” for your area.

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  • UFHealth Shands Psychiatric Hospital Crisis Stabilization Unit, (off of NW 39th Avenue) at 4101 NW 89 Blvd, Gainesville FL 32606

    • Main number (352)-265-5497

    • Admissions (352)-265-5481

    • Outpatient (352)-265-5424

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  • The Behavioral Health Center at North Florida Regional Healthcare is a Baker Act Receiving Facility and also accepts voluntary admissions (across from the Oaks Mall on University Ave, Gainesville). Intake is through via their Emergency Room entrance. Request a 'Calming Room', if available, and plan to stay with your loved one. Food is not provided, but you are allowed to bring it in for them.

STEP 3

  • If you need assistance in helping your loved one to be delivered to one of the crisis center (listed above) to get the help they deserve, phone 911.

    • Specifically tell the 911 operator this script: "I am requesting the aid of a “C.I.T.” officer that can help my family member who has been diagnosed with a severe mental illness, and this loved one is currently endangering himself and others."

    • The operator will then send specially trained law enforcement officers, if available, that are understanding, patient, and trained in dealing with mental illness crises. They are members of the “Crisis Intervention Team”, or “C.I.T.” for short.  You can ask the 911 operator to tell the officers to arrive at your house without lights or sirens.
       

  • If this is a repeat crisis with a known history of a severe mental illness, it is essential that you tell the officers this fact when they arrive. You can help your loved one get the help they need immediately by using an important tool of involuntary examination and treatment called the "Baker Act". The Florida Baker Act law permits crisis center mental health care providers to evaluate and treat your loved one during a 72 hour period, if the following two criteria are met for someone believed to be experiencing harmful effects from a severe mental illness: (1) the person's condition and behavior puts themselves or others in danger, and (2) the person is unable to understand or determine their own need for treatment. In your house, ask the law enforcement officers to do a "Baker Act" on the spot based on these two criteria, before they drive your loved one to a crisis center. Some law officers may not be aware that the Baker Act law specifically states that the responding officer must take such a person to a crisis center if the above criteria are met. The law also states that it is not necessary for the officer to directly witness these criteria himself, but that a responsible report of the behavior may be enough to do the Baker Act on the spot in the house. Examples of a responsible report include papers documenting a psychiatrist's diagnosis of a psychotic condition, and evidence from family members that the loved is potentially harmful to himself or others because they have refused or stopped taking otherwise effective anti-psychotic medication. If the officers believe that a crisis center mental health professional is better suited to make the initial evaluation, the officers may make the decision to then transport the loved one to a crisis center. The wording of the Alachua county Sheriff’s office states that an officer “may” take a person into a crisis center for involuntary observation upon being given supplemental information from family members, but the wording does not state that the officer “shall/must” do this solely based on information from family members. There are three crisis centers that receive Baker Acted persons in the Gainesville area: 1) UF Shands Psychiatric Hospital on NW 39th Ave; 2) Meridian on NW 13th Street; and 3) Behavioral Health Center at North Florida Regional Medical Center which is across from the Oaks Mall on University Ave.
     

  • It is a normal reaction for any family member to feel uneasy about seeing a law enforcement officer in your house. But you don't need to worry about it because they are simply there to help out under friendly conditions, and they are trained to help you understand this. They have been instructed to help you and guide you through the rest of the steps in admitting your loved one to one of the crisis centers.

 

STEP 4

Inform yourself about what to do next.