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.