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Bledsoe and Rep. Deborah Ferguson), Act 887, adopted major changes in Arkansas on the conveyance of medicine to rural constituents. Telemedicine is an efficient tool for addressing shortages of doctors and specialists in rural areas. Act 887 establishes the proper professional use of telemedicine and professional standards, provides for reimbursement for telemedicine by Medicaid and for doctors by insurance, encourages use in Arkansas hospitals and defines the location of telemedicine. The advent of telemedicine in Arkansas should enhance access of rural Arkansans to physician specialists, psychiatrists and behavioral health professionals. Clearly, telemedicine will play a major role in the efforts to improve health care and treatment for mental illness in rural Arkansas. County government, non-profits and other stakeholders

also are finding ways to improve their communities and public safety. For example, in Fort Smith, the Old Fort Homeless coalition is creating a homeless campus shelter to assist the homeless to return to the mainstream of society. The shelter will offer consolidation of an array of services from Mercy Hospital, Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center and the Crisis Intervention Center, etc. The services will include medical, dental, behavioral and counseling health care, job training, education, food and shelter. This will be made possible by grants and private donations along with collaboration by non-profit nongovernmental organizations and public/governmental entities. The homeless population is comprised by a large percentage of veterans, victims of domestic abuse and the severely mentally ill. A group known as Judicial Equality for Mental Illness (JEMI), which is comprised of county judges, law enforcement, prosecutors and medical providers, was formed in Benton and Washington counties. JEMI worked with legislators for SB148 (sponsored by Sen. Jon Woods, Sen. Uvalde Lindsey and Rep. David Whitaker), which was folded into SB472 and made part of Act 895 (summarized above), and provides for a new drug court fee that should help provide some funding for new treatment centers that some drug offenders or the mentally ill may qualify for rather than jail. The goal is to assist these


the records from seeking judicial review of the custodian’s decision or the decision of the Attorney General.”

process is a lot of work. If the person making the FOIA request is an attorney and the request is made as a part of a pending lawsuit, an alternative procedure would be to use a confidentiality agree- ment between legal counsel (which can be an oral agreement) whereby the requesting attorney would be permitted to look at the entire (unredacted) file and identify what he or she wants a copy of, agreeing that he or she would not release any information until there was an agreement with respect to the information he wanted to copy. Ten, if a “privacy” dispute arose, it could be brought be- fore the judge before any information was released to third parties or used by the requesting attorney in any way.

Alternative Procedure Available for Litigation: Te redaction 18

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folks to be productive members of society. The publication by the National Association of Counties (NACo), “Crisis Care Services for Counties: Preventing Individuals with Mental Illness from Entering Local Corrections Systems,” provides a study of 16 community solutions, numerous publications and studies showing the positive impact and cost efficiency of these efforts. As noted above, Act 895 also authorized assignment to drug or behavioral treatment as a condition of parole or probation. The Governor and General Assembly adopted SB96 (sponsored by Sen. Jim Hendren and Rep. Joe Farrer), Act 46, “The Arkansas Health Care Reform Act of 2015,” to establish a legislative task force and to transform the Arkansas Medicaid Program with innovative and cost effective solutions for provision of health care services. We need to be sure the conveyance of health care, and behavioral health in Arkansas does not forsake those with mental illness. We should not and can no longer afford to use our criminal justice, jail and prison system for warehousing the mentally ill in Arkansas. We desperately need regional crisis stabilization units and diversion of those with drug abuse or mental illness into treatment. We will continue to work with DHS, state corrections and parole officials, the General Assembly and the Governor to address the ranking of Arkansas as the 50th among states in treatment of the mentally ill. By addressing health care, behavioral health, criminal justice and parole issues in a comprehensive manner, we have a potential to build on the progress made from the 90th Regular Session of the General Assembly.

On the Web: Look for NACo’s “Crisis Care Services for Counties: Preventing Individuals with Mental Illness from Entering Local Corrections Systems” publication online at Search “Crisis Care.”

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AACRMF Counties: Tis is complicated. If your county is a member of the AAC’s Risk Management Fund, just call for help. For AACRMF members, there is NO COST for employment advice before the matter becomes a contested proceeding (county grievance hearing, EEOC charge or lawsuit). Te AACRMF will help you through the process of answering an FOIA Request for personnel records.

Mike Rainwater, a regular contributor to County Lines and lead

attorney for AAC Risk Management, is principal shareholder of Rain- water, Holt, and Sexton, P.A., a state-wide personal injury and dis- ability law firm. Mr. Rainwater has been a lawyer for over 30 years, is a former deputy prosecuting attorney, and has defended city and county officials for over 25 years.


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