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Medical and Mental Health Services

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 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, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, social workers, recreational and occupational therapists, medical records staff, clerks and administrators. Specialty services such as dialysis, and OB prenatal care for all pregnant inmates are 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 our contracted pharmacy program. 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 staff.

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 allowed.

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.

There is a charge for medical record information, please ensure that your name and address is correctly listed. You will be billed an administrative fee as well as a per page charge, once the check or money order is receiving the records will be mailed to you. Since there is a per page charge to reduce the cost please be specific as to the information you require.

A free copy will be provided for the purpose of continuity of care if sent by your physician or licensed healthcare provider. Psychiatric information, with the exception of a medication list, will ONLY be sent to a registered psychiatric clinic, physician, psychiatrist or other licensed mental health provider.

The form may be mailed to:
Medical Service Division
ATTN: Release of Information
5530 Overland Ave, Suite 370
San Diego, CA 92123


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 licensed mental health 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 inmate patients:

  • 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.

The San Diego Central Jail and the Las Colinas Detention & Reentry 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 facilities include:

  • 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

Mental health services are also available to less acute patients. Psychiatric clinic and supportive therapy 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.

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 professionals.
  • 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 Website.
  • 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) 543-1434 or (800) 523-5933.