The Sheriff’s Department’s Medical Services Division is a
managed health care delivery system with the mission of ensuring
the delivery of comprehensive health care services to
individuals who are detained in the custody of the Sheriff’s
Department; ensuring the provision of emergency, acute, and
basic medical/mental health care to all inmates in a timely
manner; taking all necessary precautions to prevent the spread
of communicable and contagious diseases; and maintaining a
stable health status for inmate/patients.
The Sheriff’s Department employs a partnership of staff and
contract health professionals to provide medical and mental
health services on-site and off-site. Staff members consist of
physicians, psychiatrists, dentists, Registered Nurses, Licensed
Vocational Nurses, social workers, recreational and occupational
therapists, medical records staff, clerks and administrators.
Specialty services such as dialysis, HIV, orthopedic, and OB
prenatal care for all pregnant inmates is available on-site.
Hospitalization and specialty clinics complete this health care
system, which meets community standards
Registered Nurses medically screen every inmate before they are
accepted into the jail system. Screening is done for emergency,
acute, and chronic medical and mental health needs.
Privately provided medications are generally not administered in
jail. Medication ordered by jail physicians will be provided
through the jail pharmacy. If you want to ensure our Medical
staff is aware of an inmate’s medication, you may call the Jail
Information line and ask to speak with a member of the Medical
At the time of admission to the jail, inmates are instructed how
to request a sick call visit. Requests to attend sick call are
reviewed by a Registered Nurse within 24 hours. Pursuant to
Penal Code §4011.2, inmates are charged a co-pay of $3.00 for
sick call visits. Emergency care, communicable disease issues,
medical provider referrals, and follow-up treatments are not
subject to the co-pay. Inmates are never denied medical
treatment due to a lack of funds.
While most routine medical care is provided within the jails, it
is occasionally necessary to transport an inmate to a hospital
for care. For security reasons, details of the date, time, and
location of those transports are not made available. If an
inmate is admitted to a hospital, however, visiting may be
Sheriff’s Medical Administration may approve private provider
appointments after review. All costs for the provider,
diagnostic tests, and transportation fees must be pre-paid, and
will not be undertaken by the County.
Private physicians will not be allowed to conduct examinations
in the Sheriff’s Detention facilities.
Medical information will not be given to family or friends due
to federal and state privacy laws. The patient may give medical
updates to their family and friends. Medical staff accepts
medical or mental health information and will follow up with the
individual. In order to obtain medical or mental health
information, the inmate must sign a “Release of Information”
form, designating you, by name and phone number, as the party
authorized to receive the information.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
In addition to the Medical Services offered in the jails, the
San Diego County Sheriff’s Department offers a comprehensive
range of mental health services. Initial psychiatric assessments
are conducted to determine the need for such care. Professional
nursing and social work staff provide these assessments,
schedule follow-up services and advise Classification staff
regarding inmate placement or special housing requirements.
Mental health screening services are provided to the following
The San Diego Central Jail and the Las Colinas Women’s Detention
Facility both have on-site acute mental health facilities known
as Psychiatric Security Units (PSU). These facilities serve the
needs of the most critical mental health patients and are
staffed with multi-disciplinary teams of Psychiatrists, Licensed
Mental Health Clinicians, Nurses, Occupational and Recreational
Therapists, and Deputy Sheriffs. Services provided in these
- Inmates who have been identified as having previously received
psychiatric service in the community, and who request
continuation of services.
- Inmates who are interested in receiving psychiatric care while
in custody without previous psychiatric care in the community.
- Inmates who, after being assessed by Medical staff, are believed
to require psychiatric services while in custody.
- Patients in crisis are seen immediately and other patients are
seen in as timely a fashion as possible, with urgent referrals
being made within 24 hours.
Mental health services are also available to less acute
patients. Psychiatric clinic services are available several days
per week, and medication may be prescribed. Short term crisis
intervention is available, and may be requested by any jail
staff member or by the inmate. Discharge planning and case
management are available to provide continuity of care upon the
inmate’s release to the community.
- Assessment of immediate psychological and social needs
- Development of appropriate treatment plans
- Opportunities for a variety of group therapies including Life
Skills Groups, Cognitive Reorganization Groups, and Therapy
Groups. Group therapy strives to improve social skills, stress
management, effective communications, self-esteem, anger
management, and prevention of domestic violence.
- Participation in due process hearings and the tracking of legal
processes related to mental health care
- Collateral contacts with family, attorneys, and others involved
in disposition planning
- Supportive and crisis counseling
- Development of appropriate discharge plans
- Clinical assessments for referrals to outside service providers
Supporting and coping with a loved one who suffers from a brain
disorder can be extremely challenging and stressful. You can
provide strong and effective support during this important time
by doing the following:
- When contacted by the inmate, stay calm and offer your support.
- Reassure the inmate of the right to legal representation, and
assist in making contact with a lawyer if necessary. Attorneys
familiar with mental health issues may be especially helpful.
- Tell the inmate that a screening will be conducted for mental
health issues, and that it is OK to discuss medical and mental
health concerns with nursing and mental health staff. It is
important that inmates feel safe to speak openly with these
- Obtain your friend or relative’s booking number. If you speak
with the inmate by phone, ask them to read the booking number
printed on their wristband. You may also look up the booking
number by checking the “Who’s In Jail” feature on the Sheriff’s
- If release is unlikely to occur soon, and you are concerned
about important information reaching Medical/Mental Health
staff, you may call the facility’s Information line and ask to speak to a member of the medical staff.
You may wish to contact a support group. One such group in
San Diego is NAMI-San Diego, an affiliate of the National
Alliance for the Mentally Ill. They can be reached at (619)
584-5564 or (800) 523-5933.