December 12, Wisconsin Health News
An Assembly committee plans to vote next week on a bill that would make it clear that law enforcement agencies can contract with others to transport those in mental health crisis for emergency detention.
The plan also directs the Department of Health Services to pursue federal approval to reimburse transport for Medicaid recipients.
Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said some agencies already contract for emergency detention transports. But the majority don’t because their attorneys feel that state law may not allow it.
“We want to make it clear that this is an option for local governments to work with third-party vendors, ambulance services or other law enforcement agencies to help in this process,” Born told members of the Assembly Committee on Mental Health Tuesday.
Law enforcement testified in support of the plan. Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt said transferring those in crisis is time-consuming.
“We have an epidemic in the state of Wisconsin with emergency detentions,” Schmidt said. “My opinion, and I think the opinion of many law enforcement executives is that emergency detentions by far take up the most time of any incident that we deal with on a daily basis.”
Schmidt said he’s waiting for the passage of the bill before contracting for emergency detention transports.
Disability Rights Wisconsin Milwaukee Officer Director Barbara Beckert wrote in testimony submitted to the committee that they respect the intent of the bill.
But the plan doesn’t provide criteria for providers like requirements that they are trained on safety, mental illness, trauma and other topics.
“Currently the law enforcement personal who provide transport are public employees and as such have greater accountability,” Beckert wrote. “It is unclear how accountability would be addressed for third-party contractors. Use of a third party potentially leaves the door open to abuse.”
Born said it’s the responsibility of law enforcement agencies to vet their contract providers and to have solid contracts.
The committee is scheduled to vote on the measure next Tuesday.