Senate passes two bills

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Senated has passed two bills this week. Both will be sent to the Ohio House of Representatives for their consideration.

Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, announced the Senate’s unanimous passage of Senate Bill 2, improving access to and increasing the quality of mental healthcare in Ohio by making significant reforms to Ohio’s competency restoration procedure.

Senate Bill 2 would generally allow nonviolent, misdemeanor offenders to receive competency evaluations in outpatient settings, ensuring state psychiatric hospital beds remain available for Ohioans suffering from serious mental illness.

“Senate Bill 2 is an important effort to improve the quality of care and ultimately the quality of life for those struggling with mental illness in our communities and across the state of Ohio,” said Huffman.

The legislation will also enact “PSYPACT.” a multi-state cooperative agreement that seeks to address increased demand for psychological services.

The bill would authorize tele-psychology and temporarily allow in-person psychology across states that have adopted PSYPACT. The legislation would increase patient access to care and facilitate continuity of care when a patient relocates or is traveling. Additionally the PSYPACT permits psychologists to provide services to populations that are underserved or geographically isolated.

Huffman also announced the Senate’s unanimous passage of Senate Bill 8, which would increase access to broadband services in underserved areas of Ohio. This would be done through the creation of the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program.

“Broadband internet access is an essential infrastructure,” said Huffman. “Improved access, especially in the rural areas of Ohio, will ensure our schools and businesses remain responsive to the demands of an increasingly technical world.”

Nearly one million Ohioans lack access to high speed internet, leaving many underserved areas at a significant disadvantage in the modern era. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted just how crucial access to high speed internet is, as these areas struggled to access services like education and telemedicine as they transitioned online. Senate Bill 8 also creates the Ohio Broadband Expansion Program Authority to award program grants to the construction of broadband projects in unserved areas of the state.