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SC lawmakers look to change mental health law after 2 patients die during transport

“These were not prisoners,” Sen. Katrina Shealy said. “They were mental health patients being transported from one facility to another and why were they being transported in a State of Emergency in the first place.”

In November, the three person committee heard testimony from the families of Wendy Newton and Nicolette Green, as well as the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Details revealed the women were being taken to a mental health hospital when the van they were in became trapped in flood waters.

“When Mr. Brittain said it was a cage, you can’t even imagine. It was a horrible way for those two women to die,” Donnela Green Johnson, the sister of one of the patients who drowned, said. “And they knew. It was a slow death and it was needless. SLED couldn’t comment because it’s under investigation.”

Current state law authorizes law enforcement to transport a mental health patient in the case of emergency admittance. But after hours of testimony and discussion, lawmakers are now trying to change that law.

“Making sure family members are aware of their options and letting families know they have the option, unless there is a health threat, to make that transfer yourself,” Shealy said. “The next is, I think, is very important. We don’t need to be transporting anyone during a State of Emergency.”

The bill will also address officer training.

Senator Kimpson read the bill across the Senate floor on the first day of the legislative session.

A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 44-17-440 OF THE 1976 CODE, RELATING TO THE CUSTODY
AND TRANSPORT OF A PERSON WHO IS BELIEVED TO HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS AND IS
REQUIRING IMMEDIATE CARE, TO PROVIDE THAT A STATE OR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT
OFFICER RESPONSIBLE FOR TRANSPORTING THE PATIENT MUST BE A PART OF A
THERAPEUTIC TRANSPORT UNIT AND HAVE UNDERGONE MENTAL HEALTH AND CRISIS
INTERVENTION TRAINING, AND TO PROVIDE THAT A PHYSICIAN RESPONSIBLE FOR THE
PATIENT’S CARE MUST NOTIFY A FRIEND OR RELATIVE THAT THE FRIEND OR RELATIVE
MAY TRANSPORT THE PATIENT TO THE MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY AND THAT THE FRIEND OR
RELATIVE FREELY CHOOSES TO ASSUME THAT RESPONSIBILITY AND LIABILITY FOR THE
TRANSPORT.

Stephen Flood has been released on a $30,000 bond. Joshua Bishop has been released on $10,000 bond.

Both men are scheduled to appear in court in early February.


7News
Jan 8, 2019
https://www.wspa.com/news/sc-lawmakers-look-to-change-mental-health-law-after-2-patients-die-during-transport/1692397386

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