Ohio bill would add mental health info to database

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SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (AP) -- An Ohio bill would require courts to report certain mental health information for inclusion into a law enforcement database, letting authorities know about mentally ill people with a criminal history in their communities.

The Springfield News-Sun reports (http://bit.ly/YcE2oO ) the legislation is named after a sheriff's deputy who was fatally shot two years ago.

The man who killed Clark County Sheriff's Deputy Suzanne Hopper before he was shot by police at a trailer park had been accused of shooting at officers in 2001. Michael Ferryman had been found not guilty by reason of insanity and lived in a mental institution before receiving a conditional release, but officers responding to his home didn't know that.

The legislation would require courts to report people who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity or those who have been convicted of a violent offense and ordered to get mental health treatment.

Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said the proposal would provide officers with more information to better protect themselves.

"Knowledge is power," Kelly told the newspaper. "This is a great step in the right direction."

A similar database was created locally to document the people in the county who are on conditional release, he said.

Kelly said a state or national database could give authorities a heads-up to use extra caution or consider different tactics when responding to reports involving individuals who have a history of violence and mental illness.

Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson said the more information that front-line officers have, the better.

State Sen. Chris Widener, the bill's sponsor, said officials have worked to gain the support of the court system, law enforcement agencies and judges involved in mental health cases as the bill was being written.

"I'm sure judges and courts are concerned with workload, but I believe they will want to be involved, and that's why we worked with their practitioners on the details of the bill, word by word," said Widener, a Springfield Republican.

Currently, 443 people in Ohio and three people in Clark County are on conditional release after being found not guilty by reason of insanity, according to the Ohio Department of Mental Health.

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Information from: Springfield News-Sun, http://www.springfieldnewssun.com