IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is expected to sign a new mental health bill into law. The bill would allow doctors to hold children in their care if the child is diagnosed with a dangerous mental illness.
Under current law, doctors can place adults on a temporary mental health hold, but not minors. Only law enforcement officers can do that. House Bill 209 allows physicians, their assistants, and nurse practitioners to place a hold with parent consent.
Idaho Medical Association and its CEO, Susie Pouliot, introduced this bill. She said this law can help rural Idaho, where there may be fewer doctors available.
"Its not possible to have 24-7 coverage by physicians in an emergency room and sometimes those other providers are the folks that are covering the ER, and this law would allow those folks to place a temporary hold in those situations," said Pouliot.
Licensed clinical social worker Brett Hampton said this bill will allow him to help his clients.
"We can make a direct referral to the hospital to another trained professional that can work with this individual in a less invasive way," said Hampton.
Hampton said negative affects come from officers trying to place a child on a mental health hold.
"It makes things kind of spiral or they withdrawal. Things kind of shut down and they ask them, oh are you suicidal and they say "no," he said.
EIRMAC's Behavioral Health Center treats adults and children for mental illnesses. Clinical psychologist John Landers said he is neutral on the bill and it won't change much because parents usually are the first to notice if their child is going to hurt themselves or others.
"At the behavioral health center that's typically how its done. Parents say, 'I'm worried and concerned' and they bring their child to the emergency room," said Landers.
Landers said it will help local doctors who have their own practice place a hold in their office.
A temporary hold lasts 24 hours after that the child is evaluated. The child could stay in a mental health facility for a year depending on the circumstances.