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Contact: John Wiley, wileyjk@dshs.wa.gov
Contact: Kathy Spears, spearka@dshs.wa.gov
July 10, 2014
Clarification on weapons background checks for mental health patients

OLYMPIA – Following a shooting at a medical clinic in Spokane, there has been confusion in media reports over the Department of Social and Health Services role in weapons background checks with regard to mental health patients who have been committed by the court to a  treatment facility. The DSHS role only is to provide background check results to law enforcement agencies.


Through the Behavioral Health and Service Integration Administration, the Department responds to requests by law enforcement agencies to determine whether an individual has been involuntarily committed to a mental health treatment program by court order.


If committed by a court order, we indicate to law enforcement that the individual is disqualified from possessing a weapon or ammunition. If the person has no history of court-ordered commitment, we indicate that to law enforcement on a standard form.


DSHS does not handle weapons, it does not approve weapons sales or return confiscated weapons to their owners. That is done by law enforcement. Also there is no waiver process – as reported by the media -- that overrides the state law that requires DSHS to keep a data base of formerly committed patients and to share those results with law enforcement.


DSHS does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.