OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Senate has passed a measure that would extend telemedicine treatments to patients when a law enforcement officer is involved.
Sen. Micheal Bergstrom authored Senate Bill 7, which he says would reduce costly mental health transports for certain patients.
Under the bill, if an officer is called to assist a medically stable individual suffering from a mental health issue, the patient could be assessed via telemedicine by a licensed mental health professional.
Currently, the officer would be required to transport the patient to the nearest mental health facility for assessment.
“We’re already facing a shortage of law enforcement officers across the state. Pulling an officer from his or her normal duties to transport a patient is an inefficient use of resources when there’s a better option utilizing modern technology,” Bergstrom said. “This is especially an issue in rural Oklahoma where officers and deputies may be in short supply, and available mental health facilities could be hours away.”
Sen. Bergstrom says he proposed the legislation after learning about a local sheriff’s department implementing a telemedicine program.
Prior to the program, officers were making 70 to 80 mental health transports a year.
After the program launched, the number of transports significantly dropped.
“The telemedicine program already in place in northeastern Oklahoma is a shining example of how we can efficiently handle mental health calls while reducing patient trauma and allowing these individuals faster diagnosis and treatment options,” Bergstrom said. “Not only is this a more compassionate and efficient option for the patient, but it would also greatly reduce the number of required taxpayer-funded mental health transports.”
The measure was passed by the Oklahoma Senate and now heads to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.