Documentation is Your Best Friend



Why is Documentation important?

Documenting your loved ones mental illness not only helps you during a crisis, but can also help you track patterns, warning signs and can be your best friend in a crisis. Prior to documenting your loved, have him/her fill out a Release of Confidentiality form. Contra Costa residents can download the Release of Confidentiality form. This allows you to doctors, records and information you would normally be denied.

Two other documents you can download are the Survival Guide and the Survival Guide Form. The Survival Guide is a 8 point process to help you not only document you loved one's history, but help you find ways of getting the best support for him/her and yourself.

3 areas of the Survival Guide that are essential in documentation are as follows:

  1. Start and keep a journal.

    Get a 3 - ring binder, fill it with lined paper, divide it into several parts and make entries as you have the time and the need. Setup one section to record observations about your loved one, one on notes about ideas and concepts you think important, one on listings of various locations, facilities, programs and other resources that might be helpful in your efforts.
  2. Create a file folder

    Setup a permanent set of files to receive all the paperwork the case will generate. Ask for a copy of any document you come in contact with. Especially copies of diagnosis's and prescriptions. Follow the rule that you never let an original out of the file, but make many copies and make certain that all the folks involved in the case have a copy.
  3. Setup files

    Setup a permanent set of files to receive all the paperwork the case will generate. Ask for a copy of any document you come in contact with. Especially copies of diagnosis's and prescriptions. Follow the rule that you never let an original out of the file, but make many copies and make certain that all the folks involved in the case have a copy.

The Survival Guide Form (also referred to as the Family Information Form) is your one stop form with everything on it. This form contains your loved one's personal iformation, medical/psychiatric history, medications, doctors and much, much more. Ensure you keep this form up to date and do not hesitate to make changes as they occur (especially when it comes to diagnosis and medications).

Continuing Documentation

We suggest, as a guideline, that you fill out the forms in advance, keep the information current, have extra copies, and, if possible have the currently treating physician check the information. Family members should also ensure that others have updated copies of this form, such as the person's employer, collateral contacts and close friends familiar with your loved one's mental illness.

If the police or other professionals are called to determine if your family member shall be retained and treated involuntarily (5150’d), give copies of the Family Information form to them to take with the person to the Psychiatric Health Facility.

If your family member is admitted to a 24-hour licensed public or private facility, by law, the facility shall notify the next of kin or any other person designated by the patient, of the patient’s admission, unless the patient requests that this information not be provided. Take the completed forms to the facility to which your loved one is admitted. A short hand written note should accompany the forms.

If you live in Contra Costa County, you can e-mail this form to them directly at crisisunit@hsd.cccounty.us. This ensures they not only know what to expect, but adds extra line of care for you loved one, co-worker or friend..

Inclusion of psychiatric history

On January 1, 2002, AB 1424 modifies the LPS (Lanterman, Petris, Short Act), which governs involuntary treatment for people with mental illness in California. This was significant as it gave family members more input into whether a person could be held involuntarily. The 3 main points are:

  1. That the historical course of the person’s mental illness be considered when it has a direct bearing on the determination of whether the person is a danger to self/others or gravely disabled.
  2. That relevant evidence in available medical records or presented by family members, treatment providers, or anyone designated by the patient be considered by the court in determining the historical course.
  3. That facilities make every reasonable effort to make information provided by the family available to the court.

With this new addition to the LPS Act, your documentation is of your loved one is invaluable. Many times a person can become unstable and by the time the police get there, they are winding down. This however, does not negate the fact that immediate intervention is needed. By documenting your loved one's mental health history (including any history of violence), the police will take the history of the person's mental illness seriously.

Family members need to be aware that their input shall be considered in the determination of whether involuntary treatment is appropriate, and that they may not knowingly give false information without being potentially liable to their mentally ill family member in a civil action.