HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) – Jail or ER, unfortunately, are the only options for law enforcement in most parts of northern Alabama when someone is in the midst of a mental health crisis.
Current laws allow officers to unwittingly engage someone who poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.
A proposed bill could change that, giving officers the ability to take someone they perceive as a threat straight to a mental health treatment facility.
A spokesperson for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office tells us that far too many people end up in jail who simply need mental health treatment.
This bill, sponsored by Rep. Rex Reynolds, a former Huntsville police chief, gives law enforcement officers the power to take someone directly to a mental health treatment center in the city. State.
Rep. Reynolds says the law as currently written does not help people with mental health issues get the help they need.
“During this critical incident, either an impact on our prisons or an impact on our healthcare system, our emergency room. So let’s get around that, if they need mental health care, let’s refer them directly to a mental health professional,” Rep. Reynolds said.
But it’s not just one law enforcement officer who can make that decision in the moment, a crisis intervention or mental health worker who has undergone extensive training must be on the scene and give their OK.
“The next business day there will be a probate hearing before a probate judge in reference to this undertaking,” Reynolds said.
“You have individuals in prison who are charged with crimes that I believe, I think if they had received proper treatment for mental health issues, they wouldn’t be there in the first place,” Brent Patterson said.
Madison County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Brent Patterson said the bill is intended to keep people out of the court system.
“Once you’re in the criminal justice system, it’s hard to recover from mental illness. What we envision is being able to direct this before he gets to jail,” Patterson said.
The bill passed the State House 103 to 0, and Rep. Reynolds is optimistic it will pass into law.
Rep. Reynolds says this bill supports Wellstone’s new 24-hour crisis center, which will open this summer.
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