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Ohio House acts to prioritize psych hospital beds for severely mentally ill

JIM PROVANCE The Blade jprovance@theblade.com

Senate Bill 2 frees up mental health resources for those who need it most by focusing in-patient competency evaluations on those charged with felonies or violent offenses,” Rep. David Leland (D., Columbus) said. “Our criminal justice system has been plagued by the over-incarceration of individuals who need mental health treatment, not prison.“

Senate Bill 2 will ensure that the very limited space in our state psychiatric institutions be reserved for those who actually suffer from severe mental illness,” he said.

COLUMBUS — More beds in Ohio’s six psychiatric hospitals could be freed up for those most in need of them under a bill unanimously passed by the House of Representatives Thursday.

Currently about two-thirds of the beds in these hospitals are taken up by criminal defendants ordered there by courts to restore them to mental competency so they can stand trial.

Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R., Bowling Green), would require courts to consider alternatives outside the state hospital setting for such individuals, particularly those charged with nonviolent misdemeanors.

“Senate Bill 2 frees up mental health resources for those who need it most by focusing in-patient competency evaluations on those charged with felonies or violent offenses,” Rep. David Leland (D., Columbus) said. “Our criminal justice system has been plagued by the over-incarceration of individuals who need mental health treatment, not prison.

“Senate Bill 2 will ensure that the very limited space in our state psychiatric institutions be reserved for those who actually suffer from severe mental illness,” he said.

The bill would also add Ohio to the current 15-state Psychological Interjurisdictional Compact, a move designed to expand access to mental health services through the use of telepsychology. Participation in PSYPACT would allow psychologists with unrestricted licenses to practice across state lines.

Pennsylvania is the sole Ohio neighbor who is a member of the compact, although Kentucky is set to join in May. Indiana, like Ohio, has legislation pending.

Both issues had been considered in separate bills last session but failed to cross the finish line. House changes to the latest bill must be approved by the Senate, where a prior version passed earlier this year.

The six regional psychiatric hospitals, including Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital in Toledo, are designed to care for more than 1,100 patients with serious mental illness.

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