Friday, February 18, 2011

Picking up the slack

No sooner did Officer Scott Parker save the life of a suicidal subject then Officer Scott Wolf did the same the following day.  Officer Wolf’s subject had climbed onto a ledge on the top floor of a parking garage, and it took about an hour of negotiation to convince him to step away.  Another nice save!

So far in 2011, we have handled 47 suicide attempts, and there have been 6 successful suicides in Lincoln. That’s quite a few so early in 2011, since we only had 16 in the entire year of 2010. Last year as of February 17, we had investigated 34 attempts and one successful suicide.

I am concerned that mental health crises generally are on the rise.  Capt. Joe Wright is Nebraska’s leading expert on the subject of police intervention in mental health issues.  He sent me this graph of mental health investigations by the Lincoln Police Department last week.


The light blue segment of each bar represents the portion of the total cases that result in involuntary emergency protective custody. If you created a similar chart of funding for community mental health services in Nebraska, I wager it would be the exact opposite of this.  As Capt. Wright noted, as public budgets strain and the availability of services for the mentally ill declines, in will be the police who must pick up the slack--as usual.


Anonymous said...

How many of these are continual repeat customers. I can think of five people off hand that have been threatening thoughts of suicide for the past 19 years I have been a cop. They have mental evals done on a monthly basis. I'm not saying they don't deserve to be evaluated but I think that there are so many repeat customers that it may make the numbers seem like we have more mentally ill people than there really are.

Anonymous said...

In the second paragraph I assume you meant to write 2011. As a mental health professional in Lincoln, we have EPC's brought to us on a regular basis. It is unfortunate when these do get dropped as often as they can. According to the paper the Parking garage jumper was seen earlier in the day at the hospital. It is unfortunate when the suicidal person says the right things to be dismissed from the hospital.

The county attorney who is in charge of the mental health board affidavits has a difficult job. Time and time again we see these being dropped and not pursued after the patient says and does the right things. It was disappointing to see last weeks news about the decrease in funding to the Community Mental Health Center.

The process does work for some who really need the help they would not have normally sought out on their own. The two officers named in your blogs need a pat on the back. These two were serious about ending their lives. And I hope they are able to work through the crisis going on in their life. Everyone has their demons they work through everyday. Hopefully there are some new coping skills they can find through treatment.

Tim Hegarty said...

Have you looked at Crisis Intervention Teams (the Memphis Model)? Unfortunately, we are the only stakeholder in Manhattan with any resources, so it wouldn't work for us. Maybe the economic situation in Lincoln is a little better.

Anonymous said...

I have a relative that is married to a guy who threatens suicide every time they get into an argument. This has been going on for years. I talked to her several years ago and suggested she get a small tape recorder and record him when he was threatening suicide. She did so and when she played the tape to her Doctor the Doctor intervened and got her husband picked up for an evaluation. This was in another state so Nebraska law may differ. What kind of procedures are required in Nebraska? One Doctor? A panel of Doctors? Or a Psychiatrist?

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about the same thing as the first commenter, regarding repeat customers, which can range anywhere from seriously mentally ill persons in need of involuntary commitment, all the way to quasi-professional drama queens desperate for constant attention.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic work, Officers.

Anonymous said...

I feel that the greatest potential danger with a potential suicidal person is that they might be deadly serious, and mad enough at the world to take somebody else, including you, with them.

Tom Casady said...


I looked at 11 years worth of suicide attempt reports: 2000-2010. I found 388 repeat customers among the 3,547 cases. 108 had three or more. One guy had 12!


Yes, we have. We actually have excellent collaboration and mental health triage here in Lincoln. Our problem is the declining funding for both public community mental health agencies and private non-profit service providers. There's no room at the inn, and the availability of mental health services for the indigent is increasingly limited.

Anonymous said...

"One guy had 12!"

That's exactly the kind of drama queen I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

No tickets? WTF?

Tom Casady said...


You need to read the Chief's Corner more often.

Anonymous said...


We really do have a good team in Lincoln and 3 different locations where the EPC's can go in Lincoln depending on the situation. The crisis center which is ran by the city/county is where they ultimately find themselves if they EPC is continued for further evaluation. Bryanlgh West has mental health services for acute care situations and Cornhusker Place detox has 2 holding rooms as well. If they do find themselves at the crisis center and have their Mental Health Board hearing they have a recommendation by a psychiatrist and their situation is evaluated by a board consisting of professionals and citizens. They try and find the least restrictive type of treatment for any individual who is seen by the board. Not everyone is committed to the regional center. I would say very few are sent for that kind of treatment. Most are committed to outpatient programs.


Are those statistics for people who end up EPC'd or all contact with suicidal persons? I know sometimes when the officer brings them into Mental Health Triage that they voluntarily sign themselves in.

Anonymous said...

I want to assert that yes, some of these folks are drama queens. And taking out someone else while you are offing yourself is completely wrong as is death by cop. BUT I do not believe that everyone who commits suicide is mentally ill. If I were to receive a diagnosis of Alzheimers, ALS (Gehrigs), pancreatic cancer, parkinsons', etc., I would kill myself. No doubt about it. I do not want my family to endure the slow hideous torture and expense of keeping a vegetable alive. And I want to control my destiny. You can call me selfish but I've known that this would be how I would control my end since I was about 12 years old. I am not mentally ill, or depressed or whatever. I am a realist.

Anonymous said...

February 18, 2011 8:43 PM

A very unwise thing to do....doctors can be wrong and you are appointing them as perfection...jim j

J said...

Not every EPC is a suicide attempt, but some are just thoughts of suicide that go away after the EPC, as the person is removed from the situation that was causing it and allowed to "cool down". It can happen to anyone with the right factors.

Off topic:
An EPC does not affect gun rights unless you are committed to the regional center, however nebraska doesn't submit that information to NICS because they have no due process in place to get the restrictions removed, but it is in the legislature now. I'm not sure if for the handgun permit or concealed permit if these checks are made at the state level, but they are not currently at the federal level for Nebraska.

I believe however there is a 5 year restriction on the books, and a 10 year for the concealed permit. Does anyone know if they are enforced?

Anonymous said...


Is it normal procedure to determine if the potential suicidee is taking prescribed psychiatric drugs (anti-depressants, SSRIs, etc), or if they had been prescribed such drugs but recently stopped taking the prescribed dosage of their own volition?

I ask, because some psychiatric drugs can have suicidal ideation as a side effect, as can suddenly ceasing the dosages without medical supervision.

If you keep track of it, how many of the cases involved persons who are or were recently prescribed psychiatric medication?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this increase in suicied attempts has something to do with the economy? Thats was my first thought looking at how this graph had risen over the years. I could easily see someone who has suffered long term unemployment contemplating suicied. They may spiral into depresion over constant rejection from employers. They may feel a loss of self worth by lack of employment and feel they have no more options in life.