Trueblood et al v. Washington State DSHS

Trueblood Task Force

Background on Trueblood

All criminal defendants have the constitutional right to assist in their own defense. If a court believes a mental disability may prevent a defendant from assisting in their own defense, the court puts the criminal case on hold while an evaluation is completed to determine the defendant’s competency.

If the evaluation finds the defendant competent, they are returned to stand trial. However, if the court finds the evaluation shows the person is not competent, the court will then order the defendant to receive mental health treatment to restore competency. 

In April 2015, a federal court found that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) was taking too long to provide these competency evaluation and restoration services.

Trueblood v DSHS (Trueblood) is a case challenging unconstitutional delays in competency evaluation and restoration services. As a result of this case, the State has been ordered to provide court-ordered competency evaluations within fourteen days and competency restoration services within seven days. Trueblood helps individuals who are detained in city and county jails awaiting a competency evaluation or restoration services and individuals who have previously received competency evaluation and restoration services, who are released and at-risk for re-arrest or re-institutionalization.

A Trueblood taskforce is a collaboration between Class counsel, The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), the Attorney General’s Office, and the Governor’s Office. This taskforce was created as part of the ongoing work to enforce the Federal Court’s Order under Trueblood and can be contacted at

Where we are today

There is a mental health crisis in our state. The demand for all forms of mental health services far outweighs what is currently available including competency evaluation and restoration services.

Many of the problems with untimely competency evaluations can be prevented if fewer people with mental illness enter the criminal justice system. When people are able to get the treatment they need when they need it, they are more likely to avoid becoming entwined in the criminal justice system. They are also less likely to place strains on the civil inpatient system. We intend to explore opportunities to provide access to appropriate behavioral health services which are designed to dramatically reduce the number of individuals entering the criminal justice system – enabling the state to meet the constitutional competency evaluation and restoration services timelines.


Data Notes:
1) Count does not include individuals on Personal Recognizance.
2) Includes Non-Competency evaluation orders for ESH.

court orders

The goal of the Trueblood Taskforce is to craft a bold solution to the problems in Washington State’s forensic mental health system. Our current system needs to deliver the right service to the right population, and at the right time. Fixing this necessitates many players and systems working together.  The Trueblood Taskforce would like to see mental health services provided in the community whenever possible and appropriate.  We want the care system to more appropriately assess the level of care needed by a consumer and be able to provide variable levels of care to prevent overuse of the highest and most intensive level of care.  The current care system is disparate and siloed. This presents challenges in establishing continuity and coordination of care and in creating long-term and sustainable solutions.

Task Force Materials

Building 27 Project

Groundswell Reports

Monthly Progress Report for Court Monitor