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New Oregon law will screen patients for suicide risk before release

Associated Press

SALEM – Hospitals in Oregon will no longer be able to release patients who come into the emergency room in mental health crisis without first taking steps to prevent suicide and find treatment.

A new state law going into effect this fall requires hospitals that see patients for mental health treatment to have a protocol at discharge to assess suicide risk, capacity for self-care and the need for outpatient treatment, along with a transition plan and a timetable for follow-up appointments, the Daily Astorian reported.

Hospital administrators had argued that doctors and nurses were not equipped to counsel the mentally ill on top of the stressful, around-the-clock demands of an emergency room. But state Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, said officials aren’t buying that.

“That’s not an acceptable answer to say, `We can’t do it,“’ Keny-Guyer said. “You don’t send somebody home who had a heart attack and say, `Sorry, we don’t have any help for you.“’

Hospitals will have to provide copies of emergency room release policies to the Oregon Health Authority. The Health Authority will compile the information in a report to the Legislature in January on the progress and potential barriers in carrying out the law.

Another new law signed by Gov. Kate Brown this month requires public and private health insurers to cover behavioral health assessments and medically necessary treatment for people in mental health crisis, a mechanism to help finance care.

“These bills ensure that when Oregonians reach out for help in a behavioral health crisis, they can access a broad range of mental health professionals, emergency services and critical support systems,” Brown said. “Now, Oregonians in their most vulnerable moments will have the tools they need to recover, without undue financial burden.”

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