Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Cindy Glasson
Reporter & Photographer 

County asks for summary judgement

 


It may still take several months to work through a suit filed in District Court by the Town of Thermopolis and Thermopolis Police Department against the Board of County Commissioners regarding “who pays for what” when it comes to Title 25 patients.

Title 25 refers to patients who are detained by law enforcement who may be a danger to themselves or others and are made to undergo involuntary psychiatric treatment (WY Stat 25-10-110).

The Town is requesting reimbursement for police officers’ time spent watching over Title 25 patients at the hospital along with costs incurred for transportation to a mental health facility outside the city limits, generally the Wyoming Behavioral Institute in Casper.

Title 25 patients require 24-hour supervision at the hospital for 72 hours or more, depending on when the patient has been brought in.

County Attorney Jerry Williams, representing the county commissioners, has asked the court for a summary judgment in the case, basically asking the court to dismiss the case.

According to the statute, there is no clause requiring reimbursement for municipal officers. It does, however, require the county to provide appropriate medical services for the first 72 hours of detainment.

The hospital must first attempt to get payment from public or private health insurance or other government benefit programs prior to the county paying for the services.

The statute specifically states “cost of treatment”, further, “related to the assessment of or necessary treatment for the suspected mental illness.”

In order to receive payment, the town needs to have a written agreement in place between themselves and the county, a contract that currently does not exist.

Court documents note the general practice has been the police department responds to Title 25 issues within the city limits with the sheriff’s department responding within the county.

An affidavit in the case quotes police chief Steve Shay, “Because of the shortage of personnel, the provision of detention security at a non-secure facility would prevent the department from fulfilling its other duties to the town that are required by law or necessary for the peace and safety of the community at large.”

Shay is concerned not just about the budgetary hit his department takes with Title 25 procedures, but a shortage of personnel to cover other issues that may arise in town.

The department has been, at times, down to just three officers, including Shay, due to turnover, vacation time, illness and training requirements.

With documents going back and forth, it still make take three to four months for the judge to determine the outcome.

 

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