Bill To End Intoxicated Patient Diversion

On Monday, the Assembly Committee on Health passed legislation designed to clarify the law prohibiting hospital emergency departments from transferring severely intoxicated patients to police custody.

SB 145, by Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), would make EDs treat severe intoxication as a medical condition, Pan said.

“[This bill] clarifies that a hospital is prohibited from transporting a patient who is deemed medically unstable due to severe intoxication,” Pan said.

Connie Delgado of the California Hospital Association called the legislation unnecessary.

“The provisions of this bill already exist in current law under state and federal law,” Delgado said. “There are already appropriate provisions for penalties to be placed on hospitals.”

If violations occur, she said, the state Department of Public Health currently has the authority to levy fines.

But that hasn’t really happened, Pan said.

“The bill is intended to highlight, stop and prevent this practice that endangers patient safety,” Pan said.

“This bill eliminates an ambiguity in law,” said Pat Whalen, legislative advocate for the United Nurses Association. “It makes it clear that severe alcohol intoxication is a medical condition.”

SB 145 passed out of committee on a 12-4 vote. It now goes to the Assembly Committee on Judiciary.

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