Kings County forms new psychiatric plan

HANFORD, Calif. These beds in Hanford Community Regional Medical Center's Emergency Room can hold up to seven psychiatric or mental health patients in one night. Health officials say these patients require time and resources Kings County simply doesn't have.

That's why health officials here say it's time to create new rules when it comes to dealing with mentally ill patients who are a threat to themselves or society.

"The hospitals, law enforcement, mental health services and we have diminishing resources," said Mary Anne Ford Sherman with Kings County Behavioral Health.

Mary Anne Ford Sherman has helped develop new guidelines that will require various agencies to share in the responsibility of dealing with troubled patients, instead of emergency room doctors only.

"We were driven to have a protocol that maximized and leveraged each other's services to make sure that it just wasn't hitting one organization in a difficult."

Occasionally patients not closely monitored can become a public threat.

In January 2009, gunfire erupted after a sheriff's deputies approached a man who threatened to harm others with a bomb and other weapons in the parking lot of Tachi Palace. Deputies later determined the man suffered from mental problems and hadn't taken his medication.

"It's sad because we can't just do something right away with them we really have to um find the right place for them and sometimes that's a challenge," said Kristen Johnson with Adventist Health.

Adventist Health's Kristen Johnson agrees these new rules are needed, adding that the hospital is already overwhelmed with uninsured patients in the E.R. She says the most important factor is time. Making sure these patients get the best care as quickly as possible.

The county is working on the final draft of the protocol. The board of supervisors is expected to vote on it early next month.

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