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Scraping the bottom

Montpelier municipal workers remove ice Wednesday from Summer Street in the Meadow neighborhood. A thick layer of ice has developed on the edge of many streets in the city and crews are worried it may impede the draining of melt water once temperatures rise.

Legislature seeks data on risk protection orders

MONTPELIER — The Senate Judiciary Committee took testimony for the first time Wednesday on a bill that would mandate the release of data on extreme risk protection orders.

The bill would also allow health care professionals to contact law enforcement if they reasonably believed someone poses an extreme risk to themselves or to others.

Enacted last legislative session, extreme risk protection orders allow a prosecutor to seek an order barring someone from possessing a firearm or an explosive for up to six months if a court finds that person poses an extreme risk of causing harm.

The first such order was used on Jack Sawyer, a former Fair Haven High School student whom police said had plotted a mass shooting at the school.

Now legislators seek data on those orders. A bill has been introduced that, if passed into law, would require the court administrator and the Agency of Human Services to report annual data on the use of the orders to judiciary committees in the House and Senate.

The data would include the number of petitions for orders filed, the geographical data showing in what county petitions were filed and a follow-up describing what happened to the person the order was filed against and if they received mental health treatment.

Chief Superior Judge Brian Grearson told the committee the judiciary already collects data on how many and where orders are filed so complying with that will be easy. Grearson said the follow-up information is a different story because he doesn’t have access to those narratives.

“Once the order is issued, as to whether or not the individual receives treatment or not, we do not have access to that information,” he said.

Grearson said he could provide the committees with data showing how many extensions were requested.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, suggested changing the language in the bill so the committees receive data on orders that were dismissed or extended.

For the health provider piece of the bill, committee members spoke via phone with Dr. Christopher Barsotti, an emergency room doctor out of Bennington. Barsotti said data shows such reporting can reduce suicide rates, adding Vermont has a high suicide rate.

“There are multiple reasons for this, but if we can decrease the incidents of suicide, it will have an impact on our health outcomes and our health expenditures,” he said.