Oregon House OKs mental health database to help police

From the Corvallis Gazette-Times, June 26 2009

The Oregon House has passed a bill intended to help police officers deal with people whose conduct may be caused by mental or medical problems.

Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, had pushed for the bill since 2007 and is one of its principal sponsors. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it’s uncertain if action can occur before the legislative session ends.

House Bill 3466 would create a voluntary statewide database of people with mental health and medical issues. It would give officers information helpful when they’re responding to some calls.

For example, Olson said Wednesday, police might respond to a call that a man had eaten a restaurant meal but had no money to pay. Technically, he could be arrested for theft. But if the officer learns he’s on a database for mental illness or dementia, police could just call relatives to come pick him up and take care of the bill.

Capt. Eric Carter of the Albany police said knowing of a person’s mental-health issues is useful to officers responding to a call. “It does change the way law enforcement officers deal with them,” he said.

With known chronic cases, he said, the Albany police have had some success by calling in mental health workers rather than taking people to jail.

In a statement, Olson recalled that three years ago Marion County Sheriff Raul Ramirez told the Interim Judiciary Committee that county jails were the largest facility in the state for holding people suffering from mental health issues.

“HB 3466 addresses this problem by giving law enforcement the ability to help individuals without automatically incarcerating them,” Olson said,

The database would be maintained by the Oregon State Police as part of the Law Enforcement Data System.

EXTRA – all about HB 3466 from the fantastic bill-tracking database from The Oregonian.

OUR COMMENT – This bill is a violation of the fourth, fifth, ninth and fourteenth amendment of the US constitution.