WILLIAMSON — The Mingo County Commission voted during its meeting Sept. 1 to enter into an agreement among multiple county agencies to provide information to the county’s Quick Response Team (QRT).
The agreement — among the commission, the Mingo County Health Department, the Mingo County Office of Emergency Management and the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department — allows agencies to share protected health information for the purposes of the QRT project and to allow potential clients to be identified.
“The Mingo County Health Department is part of the QRT Project,” said Keith Blankenship of the Mingo County Health Department. “We would like to be able to put in place a memorandum of understanding between county agencies basically saying that we work closely together … there’s possibilities to work stronger and take care of the health issue instead of locking everybody up.”
The agreement does include limitations for the use of protected health information by the QRT, mainly ensuring the information is only used to the extent necessary to ensure the public safety and security of patients.
The agreement also states the agencies will still ensure HIPAA is not violated by reviewing and understanding the rules and how they apply to the agencies under the agreement and otherwise.
The agreement’s intent is for agencies to help the QRT team in identifying individuals who may want help getting into recovery before they ever end up in the criminal justice system.
“This is a great program,” Sheriff Joe Smith said. “We’ve worked with them for the last several months.”
Commissioner Diann Hannah said the QRT referrals can also help individuals who are not breaking any laws at a certain time but may still be in danger in certain situations.
“They’re not really breaking the law,” Hannah said. “That’s what I try to tell people. They ask me all the time ‘why don’t we do something about this one or that one walking up and down the road?’ The good thing is that it is voluntary. And it is an alternative to jail because they’re not really criminals, they’re just sick.”
The commission approved the measure. The agreement will remain in effect indefinitely.