16Jan

Board of Supervisors Wants to Change Law to Allow EMTs to Take Patients to Mental Health Urgent Care and Sobering Centers

Los Angeles, CA—Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support commonsense reform to allow EMTs and paramedics to bring patients to mental health urgent care centers and sobering centers.

Under current California State law, law enforcement personnel are allowed to transport intoxicated patients or patients experiencing mental health episodes to sobering centers or mental health centers but Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics are barred from doing so. Instead, EMTs and paramedics are required to bring these patients to a hospital emergency room, which is often not the best place for these patients and contributes to overcrowding.

“The bottom line is that if people like you and I can take an individual to a sobering center or a mental health urgent care center,” said Supervisor Hahn, “why can’t a highly trained medical professional do the same?”

Today, Supervisor Janice Hahn recommended that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors support AB 1795, state legislation sponsored by State Assemblyman Mike Gipson, which would allow local Emergency Medical Services agencies to submit plans to the State Emergency Medical Services Authority for the transport of patients to a sobering center or mental health urgent care center. The bill has the support of the California Hospital Association. This is the second piece of legislation the Board has supported on this subject. Last year, the Board supported legislation previously offered by Assemblyman Gipson during last year’s legislative session but was not voted on.

The homeless crisis makes this effort increasingly important.  30% of homeless people living on the streets of Los Angeles County suffer from serious mental illness.  18% suffer from substance abuse disorders. These facilities are designed to be both more appropriate and more effective places to treat certain individuals in their moment of need—keeping them out of long, expensive hospital stays and out of jail.

“Our mental health urgent care centers and the sobering center at Skid Row were designed to provide humane, compassionate care, tailored to meet the needs of their patients,” said Supervisor Hahn. “This change is commonsense. Our paramedics’ hands are tied by an outdated state law.”

The motion passed with unanimous support.

In 1970, Supervisor Janice Hahn’s father, former-Supervisor Kenny Hahn, proposed the creation of California’s first paramedic system.  Supervisor Janice Hahn commented at the board meeting today that she was excited to be working to improve the program that her father worked so hard to create.