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Contact: Kathy Spears, spearka@dshs.wa.gov
August 25, 2014
Governor approves $30 million in funds to ease shortage of mental health evaluation and treatment beds

Motions filed to extend deadline for moving patients from general hospitals to mental health treatment facilities


OLYMPIA – The state Department of Social and Health Services has received approval from Gov. Jay Inslee to spend up to $30 million to purchase mental health treatment services for some of the 200 patients involuntarily detained outside of certified evaluation and treatment facilities due to overcrowding.


The practice of placing psychiatric patients in non-mental health treatment facilities, such as community hospital emergency rooms, was struck down in a state Supreme Court ruling on August 7.


“We are working as quickly as we can to find beds and resources for impacted patients. These additional beds are an essential interim step as we work on a long-term solution,' said Gov. Inslee.


Meanwhile, the Department through Jane Beyer, assistant secretary for the DSHS Behavioral Health and Service Integration Administration, has filed a declaration in support of a motion filed by the state Office of the Attorney General to stay the upper court's mandate for 120 days. The Supreme Court mandate gave DSHS until August 27 to move the patients into psychiatric beds.


“The declaration does not challenge the upper court ruling, it simply asks for more time as it will take several months to open enough evaluation and treatment beds to accommodate the current demand,' Beyer said.


“Moreover, the request for more time in no ways puts the task at hand on hold. We have already identified and secured funding for up to 145 beds, thanks to Gov. Inslee and his support of mental health treatment.'


Fifty of the beds will be available within 20 days and 95 additional beds will be available within the next 120 days, Beyer said. Ten beds were made immediately available at Eastern State Hospital due to the successful hiring of two additional psychiatrists.


“The additional beds are a significant improvement over current capacity, but they will not completely address the problem,' she said.


Some of the beds are at facilities classified by the federal government as Institutions for Mental Disease – IMDs -- which, unfortunately, don’t qualify for federal Medicaid matching funds for people under 65, greatly increasing the daily cost for each bed.


According to Beyer's declaration, “The Department is committed to providing the resources and bed space necessary to provide timely and appropriate treatment for patients subject to civil commitment. The requested 120 days will give the Department the necessary time to work with the Governor's Office and the Legislature, legislative staff, Office of Financial Management and private care providers to develop and put in place a long-term solution to the shortage of psychiatric care.'


The DSHS mental health program will have to seek a supplemental appropriation in the 2015 budget to avoid other mental health reductions in this fiscal year.  


The motion is being filed on behalf of DSHS, MultiCare Health System, Franciscan Health System, Disability Rights Washington, American Civil Liberties Union Washington, National Alliance on Mental Illness Washington,  Washington State Hospital Association, Washington State Medical Association, Association of Public Hospital Districts, Washington Chapter of Emergency Physicians, NW Organization of Nurse Executives, SEIU 1199NW, Washington Council of Emergency Nurses Association and the Washington State Nurses Association.


“Most importantly this motion is being filed with the support of NAMI, whose advocacy on behalf of mental health consumers and their families, friends and caregivers is critical to our progress,' said Beyer.




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.