LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) — A new state law could make it easier to transport patients in mental health crisis to a treatment facility.
The new law amends Michigan’s Mental Health Code, which was enacted in 1974. Since then, it has required law enforcement to transport patients requiring treatment for a serious mental health crisis to the hospital. Michelle Grunert, emergency services program director for Pathways Community Mental Health, said patients haven’t always had a positive experience in these situations.
“I think often people who have serious mental illness can interact and perhaps have intimidating or harrowing experiences with law enforcement,” Grunert noted.
In an attempt to change that, Grunert said Pathways Community Mental Health recommends state lawmakers change the code. Grunert argued that those with more in-depth training in mental health would be best suited to perform these transports.
“We’ve been to some meetings at the legislative level to really advocate for a more trauma-friendly experience for people being transported for involuntary hospitalization,” Grunert said.
In response to feedback from Pathways Community Mental Health, 38th State District Sen. Ed McBroom last year introduced a bill to help. Senate Bill 101 passed the House of Representatives and the state Senate in May. On Wednesday, the bill was signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
The new law allows Michigan counties to create their own mental health transportation signs.
“This panel includes a county judge, a representative from a community mental health organization, the county commissioner as well as a member of law enforcement,” Grunert said.
Once established, these panels would have the ability to contract private security companies. These companies could then offer transportation to patients requiring involuntary hospitalization for serious mental health crises.
“This group will create the standard operating procedures,” Grunert added. “This includes fleets, how they are managed and by whom they are managed. The panel would also develop the training protocols and processes for the transportation company they decide to hire. »
Grunert noted that this new law will not fully address all mental health issues for people in crisis. However, Grunert added that this law is a starting point for further discussions with state lawmakers about increasing mental health infrastructure.
“There have definitely been gaps in how we can provide trauma-informed care to our community,” Grunert explained. “But when our minds work together, we really hope to improve our ability to provide care.”
Grunert said the question of who will pay for emergency mental health transportation for a private company is still up in the air. Until this issue is resolved, trained professionals will not be able to provide this service in Marquette County. This means law enforcement will continue to provide these services until funding is secured.
Grunert added that Pathways will continue to work with law enforcement and the county justice system to find a solution.
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