LANSING, Mich. — A bill sponsored by Sen. Ed McBroom that would enable communities to establish an alternative way of transporting individuals with severe mental illness for involuntary hospitalization was considered by a Senate committee on Thursday.
“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.
“Every time, this process 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.
“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.”
Senate Bill 101 would enable communities to transport severely mentally ill individuals through the use of security transport officers instead of the police.
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.
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.
“I am grateful to have this legislation introduced and see movement on this issue as it has been an outstanding problem for us for many years,” said LaMarche. “There are many logistical issues that we have to work through when we transport an individual, and I feel strongly that a private security company could provide suitable and safe services.”
Oswald added: “It is certainly possible to provide the standards of care that would need to be implemented by a private transporter so that these individuals will not have to travel 450 miles, in some cases, in the back of a police car. I am confident that they would have a more comfortable trip and the attention they deserve.”
The bill remains before the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee for further consideration.