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Contact: Kathleen Spears, spearka@dshs.wa.gov
August 07, 2014
Supreme Court rules against detaining mental health patients in local hospitals

OLYMPIA In the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling today, mental health patients can no longer be held in emergency rooms or general hospitals simply because there are no appropriate settings available to serve them and meet their needs.

 

“This latest decision by the court means people in need of treatment cannot be detained and may end up on the streets,” said Victoria Roberts, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of Social and Health Services Behavioral Health and Service Integration Administration.  “DSHS, as always, respects the authority of the courts but we are very concerned for the people in need and for the community.”

 

DSHS is well aware of and has raised concerns about the existing bed shortage and funding crisis that has already lead to serious patient access issues as evidenced by other court actions. Even prior to this crisis, DSHS was proposing to put forth budget requests to allow local jurisdictions to increase local option taxes to support community mental health funding and was preparing to add capacity at the state hospitals to address the need for forensic beds to meet the demands for court-ordered competency evaluation and restorations, according to Roberts.

 

The Department is being held in contempt of court by various lower courts for not admitting patients from jail to court-ordered competency restoration because there are no available psychiatric hospital beds. The DSHS mental hospital budget is already deeply in deficit and its psychiatric hospitals are already at maximum capacity.

 

“We are communicating with stakeholders including the RSNs (Regional Service Networks) and working with the governor’s office to resolve this crisis and ensure that people with behavioral health issues get the services they need to pursue a quality lifestyle in their local community,” said Roberts.

 

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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.