COLUMBUS: Courts in Ohio would have to report certain mental health information to police and other local law enforcement agencies under a bill sent to the governor Wednesday.
The measure approved 92-0 by the state House would require courts to tell police or county sheriffs’ departments when they order mental health treatment for a person convicted of a violent offense. Courts must also report when they order conditional release of a person committed after being found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity.
Authorities would then add the information into a database, so officers could be alerted about a person’s background when responding to a call.
The Senate previously passed the legislation in March. A spokesman for the governor said he would likely sign the bill.
The bill is named after a sheriff’s deputy who was fatally shot more than two years ago.
The man who killed Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Suzanne Hopper before being shot by police at a trailer park had been accused of shooting at officers in 2001.
Michael Ferryman had been found not guilty by reason of insanity and lived in a mental institution before receiving a conditional release, but officers responding to his home didn’t know that.
Both Ferryman and Hopper died in the New Year’s Day shootout at the trailer park near Springfield. Another officer was wounded.
Supporters say the Ohio bill will help authorities know more about mentally ill people with a criminal history in their communities.
Mike Weinman, director of government affairs for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, said having the mental health information would help officers craft their response to a situation.
For instance, Weinman said some authorities are trained in crisis intervention and could be among the first sent to a scene.
“It’s a little tougher when you walk up to somebody cold and they’re acting out,” Weinman said. “You wouldn’t necessarily know. But if you have the advanced warning through dispatch and you run his name through a database, that stuff will pop up.”
State Rep. Ross McGregor, a Springfield Republican, acknowledged lawmakers could only do so much to protect those in an inherently dangerous profession.
Still, he said, “The more knowledge that we can give the men and women who put on the uniform when they’re responding to these situations, hopefully, the more prepared they will be to react to any situation that may arise.”
An estimated 450 people in Ohio are on conditional release, according to the Ohio Department of Mental Health. That figure includes individuals who are found not guilty by reason of insanity and those who are determined to be incompetent to stand trial.