Oklahoma Eyes Telehealth To Help Police During Mental Health Crises


By Eric Wicklund

Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow police officers to use telehealth to help assess someone having a mental health crisis, rather than immediately taking that person into protective custody.

SB 1208, sponsored by State Senator Michael Bergstrom, would give responding law enforcement officers the opportunity to connect with a licensed mental health professional via telemedicine for an initial assessment. If that assessment determined that emergency detention isn’t needed, the officer would have the authority to transport that person to a facility providing the appropriate level of care, or even back home.

The bill would enable the mental health professional to work with police and the patients to determine the best place for care. It would still give law enforcement the authority to take someone into custody if it was determined the person was not medically stable.

In a column written for the Claremore Daily Progress, Bergstrom said the idea for this bill came from a program launched roughly two years ago by the Grand Lake Mental Health Center, which equipped local police officers with iPads and told them to connect with counselors during mental health calls. Using the connected health platform, police and GLMHC were able to reduce the costly psychiatric inpatient center admissions from 402 in 2017 to only one in 2019.

The programme is now being used in 12 counties in the northeast part of the state. Bergstrom’s bill would make it a state-wide service.

“The programme implemented by the GLMHC proves telemedicine access reduces the number of mental health transports officers provide, reduces patient trauma and allows for quicker treatment,” Bergstrom said. “This programme would save our taxpayer dollars and allow our law enforcement officers to efficiently serve our communities.”-

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