Angry Caller to Help Line Tracked, Incarcerated in Psychiatric Hospital & Billed

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John Albers was completely surprised when police came to his home at midnight and insisted on taking him to a psychiatric hospital, where he was held against his will for seven hours and then charged $2007.75 for it. According to the report and legal analysis on Credit.com, Albers could well be on the hook for the charges because he’d earlier left an angry message with a suicide hotline about its long wait-times.

“Albers describes the chain of events like this,” reports Credit.com. “He called a suicide hotline on the advice of his therapist, who suggested it as a means of stress management — to keep from bottling things up. He indicated that his case was not an emergency and opted to use the online chat function. After he had waited five hours, he got a chat message indicating that call volume was too high to address his concerns right away, and that he would be in line for the following day. Albers was angered by having to wait and voiced his frustration with the long wait time.”

Someone at the hotline service then contacted police and told them that Albers could be in danger of harming himself.

“Is he stuck with the bill?” write the experts at Credit.com. “We get this question more often then you may think, from people who thought they were OK after an accident but were taken to an ER anyway, for example, and from others who were treated without their consent or even over their objections.” They explain that the answer lies in whether the police and psychiatrists behaved reasonably with the information they had available to them.


I Was Hospitalized Against My Will. Should I Have to Pay?
(Credit.com, September 15, 2014)

MIA Editor’s Note: An investigation of community-based mental health interventions and crisis lines written by Rob Wipond and published in Victoria, British Columbia’s Monday Magazine in 1999 (available here) revealed that it is apparently common practice for “anonymous” help lines to contact police and have calls traced if a caller is in physical danger or is believed to be in need of psychiatric assistance.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. “They explain that the answer lies in whether the police and psychiatrists behaved reasonably with the information they had available to them.”

    The “suspect on reasonable grounds standard” is a bar set so low that what is considered reasonable is “tomato”. Mr Albers does stand a hope in Iraq of getting his money back.

    The amount of problems that have been created in my community as a result of this low burden have been growing exponentially lately. Domestic violence, removal of children, and mental health detentions are all being done using this standard. Trouble is people in the community are becoming aware of the potential for abuse of such a low standard, and are using the system for nefarious purposes. The statistics show an explosion in problems (60% more calls for services), and used to demand MORE services. People being angered by the abuses and creating chaos as a result.

    Ima sit back with my popcorn and watch the Fall of Rome.

    • I’d like to see stats showing how often the behaviour of police and psychiatrists is deemed unreasonable. My guess that’s like 0% of the cases.
      Lesson for today: never ever use any “mental health” services no matter how benign or theoretically anonymous they claim to be.

  2. That’s why all these help hotlines are bs. I’ve tried two and once had a guy tell me I should go to a hospital and take a pill since he doesn’t have time to talk to me with many people calling (I guess he tells all of them the same thing) and once have people laugh at me. These lines are as ridiculous as the rest of the system.

  3. “We get this question more often then you may think, from people who thought they were OK after an accident but were taken to an ER anyway, for example, and from others who were treated without their consent or even over their objections.”
    Btw, that is outrageous. You want to do something against my will and then charge me for it? It makes no sense and is straight out abusive. Insult to injury.

  4. I’m outraged at the absolute dysfunction of this scenario. Therapist tells client to call not therapist, but suicide hotline for non-suicidal support. Suicide hotline doesn’t answer call. Client becomes reasonably angry, leaves reasonably angry message. Police force client into psych ward, psych ward forces client to pay $2,000 for unneeded, forced, and traumatizing incarceration. Client is hurt, angry, unsupported, and $2,000 poorer. The most expensive path to the most harmful and least helpful form of care has been followed. The psych ward wins again. Everyone else loses. And so it goes…

  5. What a useless hotline service! I used to run a shift on a citizen volunteer based crisis line, and no one would ever have been treated that way. Unfortunately, many hotlines are now run by “professionals,” which means they are more expensive, have less people answering calls, and treat people with a distressing degree of condescension and disrespect. I’d be interested to know if this was a purportedly “professional” hotline. It certainly failed this caller in multiple ways.

    —- Steve

  6. I called a child abuse hotline once. The person on the other line acted like they cared, like they were empathic, but did not report or do anything about the fact I’d been handed over medical evidence about the physical abuse of my child.

    Truly, the medical industry must get out of the business of covering up the medical evidence of the sexual abuse of children by doctors, if they are ever to be seen as respectable again.

    My understanding, currently and based upon many years of research, is the psychiatric industry’s current role is covering up the sins of those now “in control” against those who don’t chose to steal from others by working for major corporations, including the religions.

  7. These hotlines should have a responsibility to either ensure callers’ absolute confidentiality, or announce their lack of anonymity in a big and obvious way (ie. as soon as you call, hearing a recording that states, “We can trace calls, even if you dial *67 first, and if we arbitrarily determine that you’re in danger of harming yourself, we may repeat everything you say to the police.”). I know of a couple that are truly anonymous and will not report callers, but most do, scarily regularly. If anyone’s interested, I created a brief resource guide including different hotlines and sources of support, including their specific confidentiality policies at http://www.thesystemisbrokenblog.org/resources/.

    • Honestly, after having called a few of these lines I think they should actually be happy we cannot trace their numbers. I was pretty much homicidal after talking to these a***oles (maybe that’s considered an improvement over suicidal?).

          • One psychiatrist considered my sarcastic response to her insinuation that being abused was my fault to be a sign of “bipolar disorder.” This was after she acknowledged that I had never been manic. According to MH professionals, people are simply not allowed to be justifiably angry.