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Beltrami County Board: No change in mental health transports

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Apparently individuals diagnosed with mental health problems will have to drive themselves to a treatment facility.

Beltrami County Attorney Tim Faver told county commissioners Tuesday that it was his opinion that the county is not responsible for transporting patients diagnosed with mental health problems at North Country Regional Hospital to treatment facilities in Bemidji or elsewhere.

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By state statute, the County Board of Commissioners doubles as the County Board of Health.

"I can find nothing that the Board of Health is responsible for mental health transports," Faver said. "If a person is committed, then the county is responsible. A judicial commitment makes the county responsible for transporting to and from facilities."

In that instance, if a judge orders an individual to be held at a state hospital, then the sheriff's office would be required to transport the person to and from the state hospital for court hearings and such.

"This has really fallen into the cracks," said Commissioner Jim Lucachick, who heads a working group trying to find a solution. "It's not the county's responsibility, not the state's responsibility and not the hospital's responsibility. Who's is it?"

The County Sheriff's Office stopped making such transports on Jan. 1 in a cost-saving measure. The county, NCRH and several providers kicked in $25,000 to pay for transports by several cab services and the Sheriff's Department, but that money has run out.

NCRH is now asking family of those diagnosed in the hospital with mental health issues to take their family member to a mental health facility. Some have to drive themselves.

It's apparently a statewide issue as sheriffs across the state discover that they aren't responsible for mental health transports unless ordered by a judge or the person is a security risk.

Lucachick is a member of a statewide task force trying also to find a solution.

"We've asked the state Attorney General's Office to see if the state is at all responsible," he said.

As insurance companies for the most part cover transportation for medical conditions, the task force may recommend legislation to include mental health transports in insurance coverage.

Y bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com

Apparently individuals diagnosed with mental health problems will have to drive themselves to a treatment facility.

Beltrami County Attorney Tim Faver told county commissioners Tuesday that it was his opinion that the county is not responsible for transporting patients diagnosed with mental health problems at North Country Regional Hospital to treatment facilities in Bemidji or elsewhere.

By state statute, the County Board of Commissioners doubles as the County Board of Health.

"I can find nothing that the Board of Health is responsible for mental health transports," Faver said. "If a person is committed, then the county is responsible. A judicial commitment makes the county responsible for transporting to and from facilities."

In that instance, if a judge orders an individual to be held at a state hospital, then the sheriff's office would be required to transport the person to and from the state hospital for court hearings and such.

"This has really fallen into the cracks," said Commissioner Jim Lucachick, who heads a working group trying to find a solution. "It's not the county's responsibility, not the state's responsibility and not the hospital's responsibility. Who's is it?"

The County Sheriff's Office stopped making such transports on Jan. 1 in a cost-saving measure. The county, NCRH and several providers kicked in $25,000 to pay for transports by several cab services and the Sheriff's Department, but that money has run out.

NCRH is now asking family of those diagnosed in the hospital with mental health issues to take their family member to a mental health facility. Some have to drive themselves.

It's apparently a statewide issue as sheriffs across the state discover that they aren't responsible for mental health transports unless ordered by a judge or the person is a security risk.

Lucachick is a member of a statewide task force trying also to find a solution.

"We've asked the state Attorney General's Office to see if the state is at all responsible," he said.

As insurance companies for the most part cover transportation for medical conditions, the task force may recommend legislation to include mental health transports in insurance coverage.

bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com

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