Paramedics in Indiana will be able to gain access to patients’ mental health safety plans.
A new Indiana state law, Indiana House Enrolled Act 1118 (HEA 1118), will enable a representative of an integrated health care program or a representative of a mental health community paramedicine program to request a patient’s mental health safety plan for admission into a psychiatric care center. This will make it easier for paramedics to stay informed about patients’ care. The law also allows paramedicine groups to share information and reports about a patient.
HEA 1118 specifically requires that “the division shall establish a standard format for an individualized mental health safety plan that may be disclosed without a patient’s consent.” To develop this plan, the Act requires that a “mental health provider develop the individualized mental health safety plan collaboratively with the patient, and include the following: The patient’s name, address, and contact information; Early warning signs that a crisis may be developing; Internal coping strategies; Contact information for individuals and social settings that may provide distraction for the patient; Contact information for persons from whom the patient can ask for help; Contact information for professionals or agencies that the patient can contact at the onset of or during a crisis; and (G) A plan for making the environment safe for the patient.”
Former Indiana judge and current Hamilton County Councilor Steve Nation collaborated with local lawmakers to correct the law to help address growing mental health needs. The legislation was co-authored by State Reps. Jerry Torr (R) and Cindy Ledbetter (R), and it was sponsored and co-sponsored by State Sens. Scott Baldwin (R), Michael Crider (R), JD Ford (D), Mike Bohacek (R), and Lonnie Randolph (D).
“As it is, those who are transported by police or paramedics to a psychiatric center are evaluated, given a mental health safety plan, and sent on their way,” Nation explained. “This law allows the transporting agency to request a copy of that safety plan so it can follow up with the patient and offer them the services and support they need to get back on their feet.”
State Representative Donna Schaibley (R-Carmel) applauded the law, saying it is a “step in the right direction.” She added, “This is a community-based solution to help our state’s most vulnerable Hoosiers through a crisis situation and beyond that immediate emergency care. Allowing these trained paramedics access to the individual’s safety plan will ensure the person in need will get the proper treatment and care.”
“If you’re in the middle of a mental health crisis, you’re not thinking, ‘Here’s what I need’ or ‘Here’s what’s available,’” Nation said. “(This law) is trying to help people in the midst of a mental health crisis to have adequate services and to get them there and help pass the crisis.” He added, “Say there’s a patient who has an episode in Carmel, lives in Noblesville but receives services in Fishers. This is just giving other (avenues for) that person or that family to see the options that are out there. Oftentimes, we have no way of identifying the folks in our community who need mental health support until they’ve committed a crime or are arrested. We need to figure out how to identify these folks before that happens.”
Nation estimates that a large number of individuals will benefit from the Act, which will officially become law on July 1. “Up to 800 people in Hamilton County could benefit from HEA 1118,” he estimated.