Vermont lawmakers are taking a closer look at standards for restraining or involuntarily medicating mental health patients in emergency situations.
The upheaval since the closure of the Vermont State Hospital has meant a severe shortage of beds for some of the state's most critically ill patients. That has meant that some are held in hospitals or other temporary settings.
Mental health advocates appeared before the administrative rules committee Wednesday morning to push the point that regardless of the setting, standards must be applied consistently when a patient is in crisis at any facility, like making sure a trained psychiatrist is present when drugs are administered.
"We believe that as soon as someone is in the custody of the commissioner for a mental health evaluation in an institution, like at a designated hospital or a state facility, they should have the same protections as were at the state hospital," said Ed Paquin of Disability Rights Vermont.
The Legislature approved the initial rules in 2011, but it has taken until now to fine tune the standards, something that advocates says should have been taken care of a while ago.
On a separate but related issue, the governor and some lawmakers also want to change the law to make it easier for doctors in non-emergency situations to administer drugs to patients who are refusing treatment. That has been the topic of a working group the past several months.