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S.B. 101 would relieve law enforcement of transport burdens

EAGLE RIVER — Leslie Griffith, outpatient program director at Copper Country Mental Health (CCMH) during her presentation at the May 27 mental health presentation at the Keweenaw County Courthouse, discussed the efforts being made to increase resources for mental health services and programs, not only locally, but across the state, as well.

One of the needs currently being discussed on the state level, she said, is transportation for law enforcement, and the push to get private entities who can transport mental illness patients. The push she mentioned is in the form of a senate bill currently tied up in committee. Lansing, however, has been slow to respond.

On March 4, 2021, State Sen. Ed McBroom introduced Senate Bill 101, which would enable communities to establish an alternative way of transporting individuals with severe mental illness for involuntary hospitalization.

“Involuntary mental health transports are resource-intensive and can leave our communities vulnerable,” said McBroom, R-Waucedah Township. “For the U.P., these transports often require two officers to take an individual down to Ypsilanti or Grand Rapids, for example, which can be as much as an 18 hour round trip, or longer.”

Like the sheriffs of Keweenaw and Baraga counties, and the undersheriff of Houghton County stated at the mental health presentation, McBroom said the current system necessarily takes two officers from local agencies and often requires paying them overtime. It also means that someone back home has to cover for them, and they have to be paid overtime too. This can leave our departments short-staffed, overworked, and vulnerable to emergencies.

If it becomes law, the measure would allow a county to create a panel consisting of a member of law enforcement, the county administrator, a judge and a mental health professional that could ultimately recommend the use of a private company that the county board of commissioners could contract with to transport such individuals. The panels would be required to ensure that the selected companies meet certain professional and community standards.

In a press release posted on his website, McBroom stated:

“Giving communities the option of contracting with qualified professionals, whose job it is to transport people with severe mental impairment, is not only good for our communities and police departments, but also for those in need of better care.”

Under the bill, the contracted security transport officers may only transport an individual to or from a hospital, a mental health screening unit, or other mental health treatment center pursuant to a court order and would not be permitted to arrest or take an individual into protective custody.

Joining McBroom in support of the bill were Delta County Sheriff Edward Oswald and Escanaba Chief of Police Rob LaMarche, who both testified remotely.

The bill was sent to the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee for further consideration, and has not yet been scheduled for further action.

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