SECTION 1. Section 1 of chapter 127 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2018
Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the definition of “Victim” the following
“Mental health watch”, a status intended to protect a prisoner from a risk of imminent and serious self-harm.
SECTION 2. Said chapter 127 is hereby amended by inserting after section 39H the following section:- Section 39I.
(a) A prisoner may be placed on mental health watch only if it is determined by a qualified mental health professional’s clinical judgment that the prisoner requires observation to protect the prisoner from a risk of imminent and serious self-harm. A qualified mental health professional shall assess the need for continued mental health watch after 6 hours, after 12 hours and then at least once every 12 hours thereafter. Each such assessment shall include an in-person interview with the prisoner.
(b) A prisoner who has been on mental health watch for 24 hours and continues to require observation due to a serious risk of imminent and serious self-harm, as determined by a qualified mental health professional’s clinical judgment, shall be transferred pursuant to section 18 of chapter 123 to a suitable inpatient psychiatric facility or unit licensed or operated by the department of mental health or, only if no bed is available in a timely manner at such a facility, to Bridgewater state hospital.
(c) The department of mental health shall promulgate regulations not later than December 31, 2021. Said regulations shall require that all state and county correctional facilities: (1) Have a written suicide prevention and suicide response policy that includes standards and procedures that are consistent with department of mental health regulations for placing a person on mental health watch status; (2) Establish a mental health suicide watch chain of command supervised by mental health clinical supervisory staff; (3) Ensure that all persons on mental health watch status are housed in clinically-appropriate settings and are provided constant 1-on-1 supervision; (4) Ensure that all incarcerated persons needing mental health care receive confidential mental health treatment that is consistent with generally accepted professional standards for mental health treatment in the community. Medication alone, without therapy, does not constitute sufficient treatment; provided, however, that a prisoner may decline therapy without medication disruption if the prisoner does not want to participate in therapy. A prisoner on mental health watch shall have an individual treatment plan written by a qualified mental health professional in consultation with the prisoner, who may accept or decline the services offered in said plan. The individual treatment plan shall include confidential individual therapy. Time spent in therapy shall not count toward out of cell time as specified in paragraph (5)(iv). The individual treatment plan shall remain in effect after the prisoner is returned to the general population as long as deemed clinically indicated by the qualified mental health professional; (5) Ensure personal dignity, except as limited by a qualified mental health professional based on individual assessment, including but not limited to: (i) Prisoners shall be fully clothed, in clothing that is substantially similar to that which is worn by the general population; (ii) Menstruating prisoners shall be provided with appropriate personal hygiene supplies throughout the duration of their menstrual cycle; (iii) Prisoners on mental health watch shall be provided a minimum of 2 blankets of the same or of substantially similar quality to blankets provided in the general population; (iv) Prisoners who have been placed on mental health watch shall be offered time out of cell indoors or outdoors, in accordance with the prisoner’s preference, at least once daily; and (v) Prisoners shall have the right to personal possessions. If a qualified mental health professional deems a prisoner to be at continued risk for imminent and serious self-harm while under constant 1-on-1 supervision or deems further human dignity deprivations, including removal of clothing, are indicated to prevent serious self-harm or death by suicide, said prisoner shall be transferred immediately to an inpatient psychiatric facility or unit licensed or operated by the department of mental health or, only if no bed is available in a timely manner at such a facility, to Bridgewater state hospital; (5) Conduct independent reviews of completed suicides, attempted suicides and incidents of self-harm, make recommendations for remediation after each incident and document implementation of said recommendations; (6) Prohibit a correctional officer from future mental health watch duty if the correctional officer is found to be in violation of the written suicide prevention policy.
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