State Considering Stopping Funding For Sheriff “Supervision” Of Psychiatric Patients In Hospital ERs

January 29, 2019

VSEA Again Reminds, "If You Had Built A Large, Stand-Alone Hospital Way Back When…

VTDigger reports that the State is considering ending payments to sheriff’s deputies to “supervise” psychiatric patients in Vermont’s hospital emergency rooms, citing "a recent rash of regulatory problems." 

From the story:

"…[State] officials say it’s an important move because hospitals are running afoul of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services due to improper use of law enforcement when dealing with mental health patients.

“Sheriffs are not allowed to physically intervene with (patients) in emergency rooms, and that is something that CMS is paying attention to,” state Mental Health Commissioner Sarah Squirrell said. “We have had findings in our state related to that, and it puts hospital certification at risk.”

However, the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems says the change could exacerbate problems for hospital emergency staff who are “already under significant stress” due to an influx of psychiatric patients.

“Elimination of this funding will increase costs for hospitals who rely on the support of local sheriffs to ensure the safety of those in our care,” said Devon Green, the association’s vice president of government relations.

The plight of Vermont’s emergency departments has been the highest-profile symptom of the state’s overburdened mental health system. Due to a lack of available inpatient psychiatric beds, mental health patients have been stranded in emergency rooms that are ill-equipped to care for them – sometimes for weeks at a time. 

Note: VSEA and its VPCH members flagged the State’s use of sheriffs years ago as a potential IMD infraction. Once, when the State was considering closing the old Vermont State Hospital, and again, post-Irene, telling State officials and lawmakers to build a large, State-owned, stand-alone facility to accommodate an anticipated growth in the number of Vermonters seeking treatment for mental illness. Unfortunately, VSEA’s urgent plea fell on deaf ears and here we are today, desperately searching for remedies.


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