Legislative Committee Approves Mental Health Reform

Dec 1, 2015

  

Credit Miles Bryan

A Wyoming legislative committee recommended approval of a major reform to the state’s system for dealing with people involuntarily detained in a mental health crisis Monday night.

The system is known as “Title 25.” The bill approved by the committee  would give courts the ability to order people to undergo outpatient treatment; right now they can usually only order forced hospitalization, or let the patient go.

“It gives us the opportunity to not just remove people from the community,” said State Senator Leland Christensen. “We know that removing them from the community is quite often not the preferred or best alternative. Now we have a third choice.”

The bill will now be referred to the legislature's management council, and eventually to the Joint Health and Labor Committee.

The Committee working on Title 25 decided not to endorse a proposal from the Department of Health that would have created a “gatekeeper” position in each county, which would be tasked with monitoring everyone detained for a mental health crisis for the entire time they are in the system. Park County Prosecutor Brian Skoric spoke against the idea, suggesting having each county appoint a gatekeeper could potentially make counties legally liable as healthcare providers. But Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said her county was moving forward with a local version of the gatekeeper idea.

The Health Department’s proposal also would have reformed some aspects of the Title 25 budget. Lawmakers suggested they may take up the proposal against sometime in the future.

As Wyoming Public Radio has previously reported, the number of people being detained under Title 25 has risen dramatically over recent years, and the program is currently facing a budget shortfall of over ten million dollars.