Committee: Law Enforcement can use Telemedicine for Mental Health Assessments

Mike Seals - February 18, 2021 10:05 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – A measure authorizing sheriffs and peace officers to utilize telemedicine in assessing individuals when there is reasonable belief that mental health services are needed passed unanimously out of the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday. Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, is Senate principal author of Senate Bill 3, legislation he has diligently worked on for three years to find a solution to the problem plaguing law enforcement with emergency transport of mental patients.

“This bill solves the big problem of how we’ll treat those struggling with mental health in our state. Currently, they’re transported as prisoners but we’re working to transport them as patients,” Bullard said.  “We have put the work into the language to get it right. We’ve held interim studies, and we have built the consensus needed and a good working relationship with the Department of Mental health to get this done.  Today we moved this much needed bill one step closer to reality.”

The measure requires officers to transport such individuals in need of treatment or subject to an emergency detention or protective custody order to the nearest facility within a 30-mile radius. The law enforcement agency that transported the individual to a treatment facility will be responsible for any subsequent transportation of the individual pending completion of the examination, emergency detention, protective custody, or inpatient services. If no such facility is available, transportation to a facility will be completed by either the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services or an entity contracted by the Department for alternative transportation.

Appropriations chairman Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, applauded Bullard’s hard work to address emergency transports.

“I am proud of Senator Bullard for working so hard on this difficult subject and for collaborating with so many different groups to build consensus on the issue.  This is a bill that will help all Oklahomans and is much needed,” Thompson said.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor.


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