Breaking the stigma

Bridging the gap between police and mental health

by Savana Robinson

On Feb. 25, 2023, I was transported to Mad River Hospital after Sergeant Andy Martin of Cal Poly Humboldt University Police expressed concern for me. I had lost my phone at the Student Activity Center, and after I got it back I told him and other officers that someone had bugged my phone, people were following me and there were recording devices in my dorm room. Because of Martin’s commitment to helping, I was later given a diagnosis that answered so many questions: schizophrenia and bipolar I. If it weren’t for Sergeant Martin, I don’t know what would have happened, or where I would be.

Martin knew me before the incident because he had picked up my knocked-over motorcycle for me. I brought him and the dispatcher, Jennifer Gomes, Harley-Davidson keychains and candy as a thank-you gift. Martin and Gomes knew that something was wrong with me because they knew me as a confident, Harley-riding girl – not a scared, paranoid kid.

“Law enforcement’s role in mental health is complicated, to say the least,” said Martin. “Mental [illness] is not a crime.”

Because my paranoia was high, the emergency room and the hospital in general was a scary place to be.

“Some of the [hospital] staff and I have had conversations. They know that it’s not the ideal,” said Martin.

 Following the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, those under 5150 hold must be taken to a facility designated by the county, which is either the emergency room or county mental health, which has only been taking voluntary patients since COVID. To me, this is a shame. I strongly believe that they should be transported to an inpatient facility for those in immediate mental crisis.

“It’s designed for medical care, not psychiatric care,” said Martin, referring to the hospital. He recognized that there could be some overlap in the type of care needed for patients. In my case, my second hospital stay warranted medical care because I ran three miles barefoot thinking my hometown was littered with explosives, which tore my feet up. This happened the night after I was released from Mad River to my dad, who took me home to Redwood Valley.

College is a time in life in which mental illness often manifests. The American Psychiatric Association states that 75% of mental illnesses start by the age of 24. 

“We see more than our fair share of it,” said Martin. I was given my diagnosis at the age of 22, which is right in that sweet spot for when such illnesses surface.

5150, also known as the Welfare and Institutions Code, is what allows police to detain a person if they are deemed a danger to themself or others.

“Those are actually very strict criteria, the idea being that law enforcement shouldn’t be able to detain somebody without good cause,” said Martin.

The way it works is that if an officer is concerned about someone, they’ll express their concern and give two options, voluntary admission to the hospital or 5150 if the case is severe enough. I was technically voluntarily admitted and I just learned after the fact that I could have left if I wanted to, but hospital staff repeatedly told me that I couldn’t leave.

If someone refuses admission to the hospital, UPD can put them in contact with an on-campus counselor or county crisis. UPD also works with the Office of Students Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR), who work with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)  and Campus Assistance, Response and Engagement (CARE).

I have a great support system, and I’ve been told that by several people, including Sergeant Martin. I consider him and all of UPD to be part of my support system. I’m very blessed to have so many compassionate and caring people in my life.

If you are concerned about yourself or another student, please fill out “Reporting Students of Concern” at or call UPD at 707-826-5555. If it’s an emergency, call 911.

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