Senate approves telemedicine legislation to reduce law enforcement transports
Ponca City Now - March 4, 2020 2:24 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate has passed legislation that would provide mental health patients telemedicine healthcare access when a law enforcement officer is dispatched for assistance.
Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair, authored Senate Bill 1208, which he says is necessary to provide immediate patient care and reduce costly mental health transports.
Under the measure, if an officer is called to assist a medically stable individual suffering from mental health ailment, the patient could be assessed by a licensed mental health professional via telemedicine if the capability is available.
“When called to a scene under current law, our officers are required to immediately transport a mental health patient to the nearest facility with a bed available,” Bergstrom said. “This can be extremely time consuming and costly for our law enforcement entities, especially in rural communities where there may only be a few deputies available each shift.”
Bergstrom said a sheriff’s department in his district implemented a telemedicine pilot program utilizing iPad technology for officers to use at these calls. Prior to telemedicine availability, officers were making 70-80 mental health transports per year. After the program was implemented, transports were significantly reduced.
“Based on the telemedicine program already in place in northeastern Oklahoma, we’ve seen that mental health patients receiving immediate access to medical care typically don’t need to be taken to a mental health facility,” Bergstrom said. “A faster diagnosis reduces patient trauma and allows for quicker treatment, reducing the number of required taxpayer funded mental health transports.”
The measure passed unanimously and now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration. Rep. Josh West, R-Grove, is the principal House author of the bill.