Governor signs law enforcement mental health transport measure

Mike Seals - April 20, 2021 9:27 am

OKLAHOMA CITY – On Monday, the governor signed legislation into law allowing law enforcement to use telemedicine assessments for those who need mental health services. Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, authored Senate Bill 3 to ensure people in mental crisis are treated as patients, rather than prisoners.

“Mental health is a growing problem in our state, and in order for those in crisis to heal, they have to get proper care and services,” Bullard said. “The hands of law enforcement have been tied when dealing with those in mental crisis because their only option was to take them to jail. Senate Bill 3 allows them to contact a mental health professional at the scene who can assess them virtually using telemedicine. The officer can then take the patient directly to the nearest mental health facility to get them the help they need much sooner and allow the officer to return to work faster.”

SB 3, which was approved unanimously by both the Senate and House, requires officers to transport individuals in need of mental 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 provides the emergency transport to a treatment facility will be responsible for any further transportation following the completion of the examination, emergency detention, protective custody, or inpatient services. If there is not a facility in the area, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, or one of their contracted organizations, will transport the patient.

Bullard has worked on the legislation for three years holding interim studies and collaborating with law enforcement and mental health officials as well as his legislative colleagues.

“We put a lot of work into this legislation. It may seem like a straight-forward, commonsense idea that those in mental crisis should go directly to a facility where they can receive proper treatment, but this isn’t how things have been done and we had to change that,” Bullard said. “I want to thank my coauthor, Representative Humphrey, for his dedication to this important issue, and my other legislative colleagues, the Department of Mental Health and our many law enforcement agencies for working with me to get this law just right to assist both the patients and officers. This has been a long time coming and I’m finally glad to see it cross the finish line.”

Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, is the principal House author of SB 3 that will go into effect November 1, 2021.

“Senate Bill 3 is a huge win for all law enforcement, the mentally ill and all Oklahoman’s,” Humphrey said. “This will help those who might need mental health services when they interact with law enforcement officers. At the same time, it gives those officers better tools to help these individuals and frees them from making transports across the state. Instead, that will happen more appropriately by the Department of Mental Health.”

 

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