Under T.C.A. § 33-6-901, when a mentally ill person is being involuntarily admitted for inpatient treatment and needs to be transported, the sheriff is generally responsible for transporting the person unless a secondary transportation agent has been designated for this purpose. This responsibility sometimes creates a significant burden on the officers and vehicles a sheriff’s department has available and on-duty.
In an effort to provide some relief to sheriff’s departments, the General Assembly amended T.C.A. § 33-6-901 with 2003 Public Chapter 210. Sheriffs still have primary transportation responsibility. But now, under new provisions that took effect May 29, 2003, the law allows for the transportation of a person with mental illness or serious emotional disturbance by one or more friends, neighbors, mental health professionals familiar with the person, relatives, or a member of the clergy. Any of those listed persons may provide transportation so long as a mandatory pre-screening agent, physician, or licensed psychologist with health service provider designation determines that the mentally ill person does not require physical restraint or vehicle security. Transportation costs would be the responsibility of the person agreeing to serve as the transporter. Since in many cases, the person needing transportation is not dangerous, transportation by a friend or relative frees sheriff’s department personnel for other law enforcement duties and relieves the patient of the stigma of riding in the back of a patrol car.
You may wish to share this information with mental health hospitals, clinics and other mental health professionals in your area and considering implementing procedures in your department to allow for transportation of mentally ill individuals by the authorized private citizens when appropriate. At a minimum, you may wish to ask mental health professionals to make a determination in these cases of whether the individual is in need of physical restraint or vehicle security.
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