Mental health patents in Nebraska are transported and treated much differently from medical patients. That was brought out at a recent legislative hearing in Norfolk during a discussion of Emergency Protective Custody, or EPC, transportation issues.
This unidentified woman told how deplorably she was treated: “I was tackled, handcuffed and forcibly placed in the back of a police cruiser,” she says. “I then was handcuffed to a pole in the middle of a public hospital waiting room. The humiliation of being treated as a criminal has haunted me ever since.”
Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood of Norfolk has introduced a bill (L-R 275) which calls for an interim study to examine the current method of EPC transportation issues.
Flood says, “I’m interested in a statewide discussion regarding the right balance between respecting those who are mentally ill and providing for the safety of others.”
Currently, only law enforcement officers can determine if a mental health patient should be subjected to an EPC transport. Many at the hearing said that should be expanded to mental health and medical professionals as well.
Columbus Police Chief William Gumm told the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee that others need to be allowed to make EPC transportation issues.
Chief Gumm says, “A 21-year-old police officer with maybe a GED education, three weeks out of the training center in Grand Island, has more authority than the doctor in the emergency room.”
Dr. Jeff Yosten, an emergency room physician at Norfolk’s hospital — Faith Regional Health Services, calls the statue — quote — “the abuse of law enforcement.”
Dr. Yosten told the committee, law officers are busy enough as it is and others should have a say in these matters.
“Every physician should have the authority,” Yosten says. “If you’ve had that training, they ought to be able to recognize who’s a danger to themselves and who’s not.”
Jim Curry, WJAG, Norfolk