Mental health medical transports an issue without Pineridge

Fremont County's mental health scene is having to make adjustments while SageWest - Lander works to reopen its psychiatric facility Pineridge. The facility has been closed since early May when the hospital sustained damage during the heavy rains and flooding. One of Pineridge's primary functions is to take care of patients who have be involuntarily detained under Title 25. According to the Wyoming Department of Health, Title 25 "provides the legal process by which a police officer or examiner may detain a person thought to be in danger to self or others or unable to meet basic needs as a result of a mental illness." And unfortunately, Fremont County has an unusually high rate of these cases, making Pineridge an important part of the local medical community. In an interview, SageWest Interim COO Betty Brown said Pineridge is the main priority as far as repairs go at the Lander facility, acknowledging that it is a primary need for the community. Brown is hopeful Pineridge's 13 beds will be ready by mid-July. Once work is complete, a state engineer will need to approve the repairs before reopening. But in the meantime, Title 25 patients have no where locally to go, and transportation is becoming an issue for local law enforcement. Without a local facility, patients need to go somewhere like the Wyoming Behavioral Institute in Casper or the Sheridan VA Medical Center. "In both of the SageWest Emergency Departments, we have qualified staff onsite to provide screenings for psychiatric patients," SageWest's Marketing Director Lindsey Anderson said. "When a patient is deemed Title 25, there are parameters required by state law if the patient needs to be transported. We contract with the Fremont County emergency medical services (EMS) to transport patients with certain psychiatric needs to the closest inpatient behavioral health location. If EMS personnel are unable to transport a patient due to state laws, SageWest and our community relies on the help of local law enforcement." Riverton Police Capt. Eric Murphy said his agency has begun to set some boundaries, as has the Fremont County Sheriff's Office. Murphy said that if his officers are called to stop an imminent threat regarding a suicidal individual, the department will follow the case all the way through and assist in transporting to other parts of the state. However, RPD cannot afford to transport individuals who turn themselves into the hospital for help. Sheriff Skip Hornecker agreed, and said his office helps as much as possible, but they too cannot take on the cost of cross-state transportations. Both Hornecker and Murphy acknowledged the trouble that the hospital is dealing with and doesn't fault them. However, a suicidal individual isn't a criminal matter, and both believe there's something fundamentally wrong with having to handcuff someone at their lowest moment and transport them in the back of a squad car (which they are required to do in any transportation situation). Murphy made it clear that this isn't a debate that is just happening here, it's happening across the country. Hornecker added that law enforcement leaders from across the county have been meeting to discuss the matter and are working on other potential solutions; because even once Pineridge reopens, they cannot continue the level of transports that have been done in the past. Note: The Lander Police Department did not return requests for comment on the situation. "SageWest greatly appreciates our ongoing partnerships with our community resources, including EMS and law enforcement professionals," Anderson said. "The issue of caring for people with psychiatric needs has been challenging for the Fremont County community, and we are committed to working together to determine the best long-term solution to appropriately serve the needs of our communities." #county10 #news