Law Enforcement, Mental Health Telemedicine/Transport Bill Passes House
Mike Seals - April 12, 2021 9:57 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, on Monday won unanimous passage in the House of a bill that will allow law enforcement to use telemedicine to have a person needing mental health services assessed and that changes the method by which such a person is transported.
Senate Bill 3 is authored by Humphrey and Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant. It passed the House on a vote of 97-0 and returns to the state Senate for final passage before moving to the governor to be signed into law.
“This bill is good for patients, good for law enforcement and good for our state,” Humphrey said. “It gets people the mental health services they need more quickly and should keep them out of jail or prison. It also will save costs and time for law enforcement.”
“Not many good things have come out of this pandemic, but the increased use of telemedicine is one that has greatly benefitted Oklahomans. Senate Bill 3 is going to get people the help they truly need and treat them like a patient rather than a prisoner,” Bullard said. “I’m proud of the hard work and collaboration that has gone into making this much-needed change to help our law enforcement better address the mental health needs of those in crisis.”
SB 3 authorizes sheriffs and peace officers to utilize telemedicine to have a person assessed by a mental health professional when the officer reasonably believes such treatment is warranted.
Additionally, the measure changes requirements for officers in transporting individuals in need of mental health treatment or who are subject to an emergency detention or protective custody order. If the nearest urgent recovery clinic is within a 30-mile radius, the law enforcement agency would transport the individual and remain responsible for any subsequent transportation pending completion of the initial assessment, emergency detention, protective custody, or inpatient services. If no such facility is available within the 30 miles, transportation to a facility shall be completed by either the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services or an entity contracted by the department.
Humphrey explained this will provide more compassionate care for an individual needing mental health care with a person that is more expertly trained to meet their needs. This also will be a big help to law enforcement, such as county sheriffs, who requested the bill. He said currently, sheriffs or other peace officers in small towns must transport these individuals – sometimes multiple times – taking them away from their law enforcement duties for long periods.
Humphrey, Bullard and other lawmakers studied this issue for the last three years, and this in just one step in the process. Humphrey said he would like next to propose legislation to ensure all law enforcement officers are provided tablets to perform the telemedicine assessments, and he would like to see additional fixes in state statute as well.