Ohio is taking steps to change how the 1,100 beds in the six state-owned psychiatric hospitals are filled — in part to assure there is room available for those threatening gun violence.
The Ohio Senate voted 30-1 in favor of Senate Bill 58, which is included in Gov. Mike DeWine’s 17-point plan to address gun violence.
Currently, a large portion of the high-security beds are occupied by people facing non-violent misdemeanor criminal charges who need to be restored to mental competency. The DeWine administration wants to give courts the ability to send non-violent defendants to step-down facilities for treatment when appropriate, leaving the secure beds for violent patients.
State Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, started work on SB58 before the Aug. 4 mass shooting in Dayton but it fits with DeWine’s 17-point plan. Gavarone said a common complaint is that there aren’t enough secure psychiatric beds for those suffering from the most severe mental illnesses.
The bill calls for sending low-level misdemeanor offenders to other treatment programs. State Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, said he opposes the legislation because it doesn’t outline what those other programs are.
Major parts of DeWine’s plan — expanding the use of Ohio’s ‘pink slip’ process to force hospitalization of troubled people and creating a voluntary state-run background check for gun purchases — are being carried in a separate bill sponsored by state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls.
The bill now moves to the Ohio House for consideration.
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