Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn was in Sacramento this week to advocate for legislation that would allow paramedics to bring patients to mental health urgent care clinics and sobering centers.
Hahn said Assembly Bill 1795, sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson), is increasingly important given the homeless crisis. About one-third of those living on the streets countywide suffer from serious mental illness, she said.
“Our mental health urgent care centers and the sobering center at Skid Row were designed to provide humane, compassionate care, tailored to meet the needs of their patients,’’ Hahn said. “This change is common sense. Our paramedics’ hands are tied by an outdated state law.’’
Under current law, police officers are allowed to take intoxicated residents or patients experiencing a mental health episode to a clinic or a facility where they can sober up, rather than booking them into jail. But paramedics are required to bring those same individuals to a hospital emergency room, which may not be the best place for them to get treatment and can also put stress on already crowded county hospitals, Hahn said.
With paramedics unable to step in, police can be tied up for hours in transferring someone to medical care.
“The bottom line is that if people like you and I can take an individual to a sobering center or a mental health urgent care center, why can’t a highly trained medical professional do the same?’’ Hahn said.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby will join Hahn and members of the California Hospital Association in the Capitol to meet with individual legislators and urge their support.
Hahn’s late father, former Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, proposed the creation of California’s first paramedic system in 1970 in the face of strong opposition from nurses, doctors and firefighters.