This is how my morning began:
I had a new arrival scheduled for his initial intake. We were about fifteen minutes into the interview when the sergeant came by my office and knocked on the door. I waved for him to come in and asked the new arrival to step outside. The sergeant came into my office and said, “Hey, Doc, we got Inmate XYZ in the holding cell. He’s saying he’s suicidal.”
We both knew the drill. “Thanks, Sarge,” I said. “I’ll talk to him after I finish up this appointment.”
“Great,” the sergeant said. He turned to leave the room and just as he was walking away, my phone rang.
“Dr. V,” the person on the other end said when I answered. It was one of the mental health administrative office technicians. “We received a call from the clinic regarding one of your patients. He’s not saying that he’s suicidal, but they have some concerns. They need you to go over there as soon as possible and talk to him.”
I said, “I just spoke to the sergeant, and he told me that they’ve got one of my patients in the holding cell right now, saying he’s suicidal.”
“This is a different inmate,” the office tech said.
“Give me a few minutes,” I said.
I got off the phone and turned to the new arrival who’d returned to his seat across my desk. He was casually looking at the posters on the wall and acting like he hadn’t heard anything that had been said in the last three minutes.
I looked at the day’s schedule of appointments and silently said goodbye to any remaining bit of free time I may have had left.
“Listen,” I said. “Can you come back this afternoon? I’ve got a couple of emergencies to take care of.”