MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Our Mental Health Services division provides an invaluable service to the citizens of this parish. Under state law, the coroner has the legal authority to commit anyone who is homicidal, suicidal, or gravely disabled. Our office stands ready, willing and able to exercise this authority to ensure that our community remains safe and to ensure that those citizens suffering from mental illness are appropriately treated.
An Order for Protective Custody may be completed by a peace officer, emergency medical technician or other credible person when, to the best of his/her knowledge and belief, a person is mentally ill OR suffering from substance abuse and is in need of immediate treatment to protect the person or others from physical harm.
An Order for Protective Custody is for use with subjects who are unwilling to seek help on their own. If the subject is willing to seek help, he or she should go to the nearest Emergency Room, where they will receive appropriate evaluation and care. Do not bring patients to the Coroner's Office!
Orders for Protective Custody are valid for only 72 hours after signing. It is necessary to know where the subject is so that law enforcement can locate him or her. Law Enforcement can not "go look for" subjects who have had Orders for Protective Custody signed against them. Any person desiring to submit a request for an Order for Protective Custody must contact the Coroner's Office at (985) 781-1150.
Any person that wants to submit an O.P.C. must come in person to the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office, at which time they will be required to fill out and sign an affidavit which includes a statement of facts, including observations, leading to the conclusion that the person is mentally ill, dangerous to himself/herself or others, suffering from substance abuse, or gravely disabled. Orders of Protective Custody can not be done over the telephone. The affiant must have firsthand knowledge of the events leading up to the signing of the Order.
The Order for Protective Custody allows law enforcement personnel to enter a residence where the subject is known to be, and take that subject, by force if necessary, to the nearest Emergency Room for a psychiatric evaluation. Upon arrival at the E.R., it is the E.R. Doctor's decision as to whether the subject requires further observation or whether the subject can be released. The St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office has no say in the decision to treat or not to treat. The St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office merely executes the legal order to take the subject against his or her will to the E. R. for evaluation.
An Order for Protective Custody is a legal affidavit. There is a penalty provided by LRS 28:63 (as amended by acts 2001-466) for lying or giving false information on the Order of Protective Custody.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
What role does the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office play in the commitment of individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues?
Under Louisiana law, the Coroner or a District Judge may issue an order for protective custody when ever a credible person signs a request for protective custody stating from personal observation that an individual has a mental illness or substance abuse problem and is acting in a manner which makes that person a danger to him/herself, a danger to others or gravely disabled, all as defined by Louisiana law.
What is an O.P.C.?
An O.P.C. is an order for protective custody issued by a Coroner or District Judge after any credible person (16 years old and above) signs a request for protective custody. It is a multi-tier document that orders law enforcement to take a person into police custody and transport that individual to an emergency room for a mental status exam.
When and how can an O.P.C. be issues? What costs are associated with the issue of an O.P.C.?
An O.P.C. can be applied for on a 24/7 basis every day of the year. An individual must begin the process by calling the 24/7 phone number of the Coroner at (985) 781-1150. No costs are associated with the issuance of an O.P.C.
Can an O.P.C. be issued against someone not currently located in St. Tammany
No. The O.P.C. is issued for a 72-hour period and can only be issued for a person located in St. Tammany Parish.
Can a second O.P.C. be issued if the patient evades the police for the first O.P.C. 72-hour period?
No. Not unless a separate set of facts is done which makes the individual a danger to self or others, or gravely disabled.
Once transported to a treatment center on an O.P.C., what happens to the .
Within 12 hours, the patient is given a mental status exam to determine if he/she meets the criteria for a physician emergency certificate (P.E.C.)
What is a P.E.C.?
A P.E.C. (sometimes called the first exam) is a physician emergency certificate issued by any physician, psychologist or mental health nurse practitioner after a medical exam when the patient is found to be suffering from a mental illness or substance abuse disorder and is a danger to self, a danger to others or gravely disabled.
What happens when a P.E.C. is issued or not issued?
If the P.E.C. is not issued after an exam because the patient no longer meets the legal criteria above, the patient is discharged.
If the P.E.C. is issued, then the patient is involuntarily detained at the treatment center for 72 hours until a second exam is done by the Coroner, usually called a Coroner Emergency Certificate (C.E.C.)
What happens when a C.E.C. is issued or not issued?
If the CEC is issued, then the patient may be detained involuntarily for up to an additional 12 days from the date and time of the originating PEC.
If the CEC is denied, then the original PEC is rendered null and void, and the patient will be discharged.