I often tell my patients, “If you’re having an emergency, let custody know, and they’ll notify me.” Once in a while, someone gets bad news or is feeling suicidal, and it’s important that they know they can ask for help and get it.
So today I was in between appointments, and one of the inmate clerks came by my office to tell me that a patient was requesting to see me. The patient didn’t have an appointment for today. His tier officer had written him a special pass to Psych Services. I knew this particular inmate-patient; he’d come by my office for unscheduled appointments before, when he’d had some small crises. I told the clerk to bring him in.
Mr. D arrived at my door, carrying a manila folder and a business-sized envelope. He sat down and handed me the envelope. “Here,” he said. “I brought this to show you.”
The return address was an attorney’s office. I pulled out a sheet of paper and quickly scanned the letterhead. Oh crap, I thought. Did this guy just get bad news? Is this letter going to tell me that the court denied his appeal? Am I about to deal with a shitstorm? I braced myself and tried not to let my brain get too far ahead with planning the next intervention.
I read the letter. In a nutshell, the attorney had checked a number of sources and was unable to find past legal documents that would have provided some important information that might be helpful to the inmate’s current appeal.
I handed the letter back to Mr. D. “I don’t understand. So what’s the emergency?”
“I have the documents that he needs right here.” Mr. D held up the manila folder. “I wanted to see if you would fax them over to his office for me.”