Telecourt boosts safety, dignity at Bellin Psychiatric Hospital

09/10/2009

ALLOUEZ — Bellin Psychiatric Center is using technology to increase patient safety and reduce the amount of law enforcement resources municipalities must use in order to transport patients to and from mandatory court appearances.

The center is equipped with a video teleconferencing system, called Telecourt, that enables patients to make required court appearances without ever leaving the facility – meaning they do not need to experience the trauma of being taken into protective custody and eliminating the need for police transport.

“It helps alleviate the patient’s anxiety and agitation levels that likely would be higher during handcuffed or shackled transport,” said Ray Bork, a team leader at Bellin Psychiatric Center.

A leader in behavioral health services, Bellin Psychiatric Center receives patients from throughout the region. The Telecourt system is being used primarily with municipalities outside of Brown County, for patients taken into custody over fears they may be a danger to themselves or others.

Typically, law enforcement from outside of the area would have to travel back to Green Bay to pick up the patient and transport them to their local municipality for a court hearing that typically lasts about five minutes, according to Bork.

“That’s a significant waste of time, money and resources, especially when they’re entrusted into our care after the hearing and have to be transported again to Green Bay,” he said. “That’s why we have Telecourt.”

With Telecourt, the patient remains in the safe confines of the treatment center but can attend the required court appearance via Telecourt videoconferencing. Doing so reduces patient stress as well as helps reduce the likelihood of patient elopement, Bork said.

Feedback from the system has been positive, Bork said.

“It’s been excellent, especially from law enforcement. The feedback has been the same from patients, families, attorneys and judges,” he said. “We’ve not had one negative response.”

Bellin Psychiatric Center currently uses Telecourt in cooperation with courthouses in Shawano, Manitowoc and Waupaca. Plans also are in the works to establish the service in Brown, Outagamie, Calumet, Oconto and Marinette counties.