- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Two Springfield hospitals are implementing systems that allow psychiatric patients to attend court hearings from a psych-safe room.

CoxHealth started the “telecourt” system in March, the Springfield News-Leader (https://sgfnow.co/1Nu0MkA ) reports. Patients, hospital staff and attorneys are now able to meet in a room at the hospital to talk with the judge leading involuntary hold or guardianship hearings via microphones and monitors.

Mercy Marian Center also will begin a similar program in the coming weeks. Previously, patients have been placed in handcuffs for the safety of the patient and of the officer, said Gail Cyr, director at Marion.

“Obviously, the video court hearings will be much better for the patients,” Cyr said.

Chandra Graham, psychiatric unit manager at CoxHealth, said it’s often a “dehumanizing” scene when psychiatric patients are transported from the hospital to court for in handcuffs.

“They are going because they are sick and not because they are criminals,” Graham said. “It was very hard to watch. And they wouldn’t, of course, understand why they were in that situation, so they would be resistant at times.”

Graham said that the program has already been successful for several psychiatric patients.

“The consistency of the environment is huge, especially with someone who is struggling with reality,” Graham said.

CoxHealth spokeswoman Kaitlyn McConnell said the program also eliminates the need to take physicians away from the hospital to help in court and keeps county deputies who had provided transportation on the streets.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com

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