Idaho House committee approves juvenile mental health custody bill

idaho-medical-association-logoPhysicians and nurse practitioners in Idaho soon may have the authority to order juveniles who are suicidal, severely mentally ill or pose a threat to others into temporary custody at a hospital or some other health care facility.

A bill approved Thursday by the House Health and Welfare Committee sets out to fix a void in Idaho law and streamline a process.

Idaho Medical Association lobbyist Ken McClure said the bill is modeled after existing law that gives doctors permission to hold severely mentally ill or dangerous adults for up to 24 hours. But state statute currently offers nothing specific for detaining with dangerous juveniles, forcing doctors to default to rules requiring consent by law enforcement before juveniles can be placed into short-term custody.

Three Republicans on the committee voted against the bill, citing concerns about the lack of parental consent at the time doctors would make a custody decision.

Nampa Rep. Brandon Hixon said for families in rural Idaho – areas typically lacking in appropriate mental health or hospital holding facilities – the measure could create economic distress if a child is transported hundreds of miles away to the nearest safe spot.

But McClure and the committee’s two physicians tried to allay those worries, noting custody decisions must often be made quickly. The bill also requires health care professionals to notify parents or guardians their child has been detained “as soon as possible” and does nothing to alter the existing framework of mental health rules and parental rights that kick in after juveniles are detained.  (AP)

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