Marin County expands involuntary drug administration to inmates

Marin County plans to expand a program that allows inmates to be drugged against their will.

Last fall, the Board of Supervisors authorized the provision of court-ordered drugs to inmates deemed incompetent to stand trial without their consent, if necessary. Before being licensed, inmates had to spend months in prison until a bed became available at a state hospital.

Involuntary drug administration has been allowed since Senate Bill 568 passed in 2007. When Marin supervisors approved, several other Northern California counties were Contra Costa, Sonoma, Solano and Napa has adopted this law.

On Tuesday, supervisors received a report from Behavioral Health and Rehabilitation Services, a division of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, on how the first year of implementation went. how. Michelle Funez Arteaga, director of the department, informed supervisors of plans to expand the program beyond inmates judged incompetent to stand trial.

State law allows the county to administer medication to inmates in two additional circumstances, Arteaga said. One is when a psychiatrist or psychologist determines that the inmate is severely disabled due to a mental disorder or is a danger to himself or others. The Marin County Public Defender’s Office represents inmates in legal proceedings when authorities seek court orders for involuntary drug administration.

The other case is when the prisoner is already under legal protection. A mental health conservatorship gives an adult legal authority to make certain decisions for a person with a serious mental illness. In these cases, the medication will be issued upon request by the patient’s custodian.

We want to start with people who are incompetent to stand trial,” Arteaga said. But now that things are going well, we plan to expand to these other populations while they’re in prison.

In the first year of implementation, fewer than 10 inmates were given drugs against their will, Arteaga said. Arteaga said she could not give an exact number because the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services has a policy of not releasing population numbers under 10 years old to protect the identities of group members.

Supervisor Katie Rice asked Arteaga how many more inmates could potentially be involuntarily medicated with the expansion of the program.

Of the three categories, the group considered incompetent to stand trial is the largest, Arteaga said.

Although I don’t have estimates for the other two populations, they would be even smaller, she said. We can go a whole year without a single person going to prison on probation.

Arteaga said since the program began, no inmates or staff have been injured during the administration of the medication.

“When we started the conversation around involuntary drug use, some people were concerned that it could lead to injury,” Arteaga said. We came to find that it is actually safer.

Arteaga said all inmates who were initially given drugs against their will consented within one to three administrations.

If inmates are found competent after receiving medication, they may appear in court or in some cases qualify for a mental health diversion program.

AB 1810, signed into law in July 2018, authorized pretrial diversion programs for suspects with certain mental disorders. However, to qualify, inmates must have one of three diagnoses: schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder.

Medication is ordered by a licensed psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse. They are administered by a registered nurse or other licensed health professional with assistance from prison staff.

I’m sure it’s hurtful personally, Rice said, but I’m just wondering about the impact on you as human beings at the staff level.

I think it’s even more traumatic to see people detained and not treated for months on end and not having any tools to be able to help them,” Arteaga said.

Arteaga said these are people who are in a serious mental state, unable to meet their basic needs. There are often problems with eating, hygiene and sleeping, and it’s really impossible to settle down. It’s not humane to see people in that condition for so long.

“I know someone in my district who has been in jail for quite a while and his family is quite worried,” said Supervisor Stephanie Moulton-Peters. He was finally able to receive treatment through your program. Now he is home and his family is very happy.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Jennifer Carter said, “I am truly one of those people.” I’m a person in prison who has no insight, can’t take care of himself, and can’t take medicine. I always wished there was a way to give me medicine.

I ended up spending about a month in jail because of my mental disorder and not knowing where I was at all,” Carter said. I finally had to say yes to medication to help me get better.

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