Ricky’s Law: Involuntary Treatment Act for Substance Use Disorder

What is changing in the Involuntary Treatment Act for Substance Use Disorders (ITA) law?

On April 1, 2018, there will be two changes in the Adult and Youth Involuntary Treatment Act. 

  • Designated mental health professionals will become Designated Crisis Responders (DCRs).
  • Community members who are a danger to themselves or others, other’s property, or gravely disabled due to a drug or alcohol problem may be involuntary detained to a secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility—also known as secure detox.

What is a Secure Withdrawal Management and Stabilization Facility?

A secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility is a facility certified by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to provide withdrawal management and stabilization treatment under the supervision of a physician for individuals detained for involuntary treatment for substance use disorders. Secure withdrawal management and stabilization facilities will provide up 17 days of withdrawal management and substance use treatment for adults and adolescents over 13 years old who present a likelihood of serious harm to themselves or others, other’s property, or are gravely disabled due to a substance use disorder.  

What are the rights of those entering treatment?

Under Ricky’s Law community members entering treatment involuntarily and those who enter a less restrictive form of treatment are protected by the patient rights outlined by RCW 71.05.360 and 71.05.217. A list of these rights must be prominently displayed in all facilities providing these services.

Historical Context:

Ricky’s Law, House Bill 1713, aligns Washington’s substance use and mental health statutes addressing the way we deliver care to individuals. The goal was to create a unified involuntary commitment law that allows those who are at-risk due to a substance use disorder to get the necessary care to protect them and the community. The law is named after Ricky Garcia, a young man who suffered for years from substance use disorders and was hospitalized several times due to feeling suicidal. During his last involuntary hospitalization, he agreed to go into drug treatment and has reportedly been clean and sober for many years. When secure detoxification facility beds are not available, patients like Ricky ended up in emergency rooms, mental health facilities or even jail cells where they were not always able get the appropriate care.

The Law:

In 2016, House Bill 1713 made changes to the behavioral health system and significantly amended RCW 71.05 and RCW 71.34—effective April 1, 2018— to include substance use in the ITA process. On April 1, 2018, designated mental health professionals will be able to detain a person who meets the criteria for involuntary treatment due to a substance use disorder to a secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility if there is space available.      
To Get HELP:
If it is an emergency please call 911

If you or a family member has a problem with a substance use disorder, please consider calling the Washington Recovery Help Line: 1-866-789-1511 (24/7)


The Washington Recovery Help Line is an anonymous and confidential help line that provides crisis intervention and referral services for individuals in Washington State. Professionally trained volunteers and staff are available to provide emotional support 24-hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, they can suggest local treatment resources for substance use, problem gambling, and mental health, as well as to other community services

County Crisis Line Phone Numbers:

You may call your local county crisis line to request assistance for you or a friend or family member. The crisis team will provide positive intervention for the person in crisis.  If the person refuses to consider any intervention or voluntary services, the crisis team may request a DCR to intervene.

Adams County - Spokane County BHO
Asotin County - Greater Columbia BHO
1-888- 475-5665
Benton County - Greater Columbia BHO
Chelan County – Beacon Health Options
1-800-852-2923 or 509-662-7105 
Clallam County - Salish BHO
360-452-4500 or 1-800-843-4793 
Clark County - Beacon Health Options
Columbia County - Greater Columbia BHO
1- 866-382-1164
Cowlitz County - Great Rivers BHO
360-425-6064 or 1-800-803-8833
Douglas County – Beacon Health Options
509-662-7105 or 1-800-852-2923
Ferry County - Spokane County BHO
Franklin County - Greater Columbia BHO
Garfield County - Greater Columbia BHO
1-888- 475-5665
Grant County – Beacon Health Options
509-765-1717 or 1-877-467-4303
Grays Harbor County - Great Rivers BHO
1-800-685-6556 or 360-532-4357
Island County - North Sound BHO
Jefferson County - Salish BHO
360-479-3033or 1-800-843-4793
King County - King County BHO
Kitsap County - Salish BHO
360-479-3033 or 1-800-843-4793 
Kittitas County - Greater Columbia BHO
1-800-572-8122 or 1-509-925-4168
Klickitat County - Greater Columbia BHO
509-773-5801 or 1-800-572-8122
Lewis County - Great Rivers BHO
Lincoln County - Spokane County BHO
Mason County - Thurston-Mason BHO
360-586-2800 or youth line 360-586-2777
Okanogan County - Spokane County BHO
509-826-6191 or 1-866-826-6191 
Pacific County - Great Rivers BHO
North County: 360-942-2303
South County: 360-642-3787
Pend Oreille County - Spokane County BHO
Pierce County - Optum Health Pierce County BHO
San Juan County - North Sound BHO
Skagit County - North Sound BHO
Skamania County - Beacon Health Options 
Snohomish County - North Sound BHO
Spokane County - Spokane County BHO
509-838-4428 or 1-877-678-4428
Stevens County - Spokane County BHO
Thurston County - Thurston-Mason BHO
1-360-586-2800 or youth help line 360-586-2777
Wahkiakum County - Great Rivers BHO
1-800-635-5989 or 360-795-8630
Walla Walla County - Greater Columbia BHO
Whatcom County - North Sound BHO
Whitman County - Greater Columbia BHO
Yakima County - Greater Columbia BHO
 509- 575-4200 or 1-800-572-8122

What to expect:

A designated crisis responder (DCR) is authorized to:

  • Determine if the person presents a harm to self/others/property, or is gravely disabled and is at imminent risk, or if there is a non-emergent risk due to a substance use disorder or mental disorder, or is in need of assisted outpatient behavioral health treatment.

  • The DCR will conduct an evaluation and investigation:

    • Interviewing all reasonably available family, friends, or others.

    • Interview the person after informing them of their involuntary treatment rights.

    • Consider all available less restrictive treatment options.

    • Determine if the person meets criteria for involuntary treatment.

    • If the DCR finds the person meets the criteria for involuntary treatment, the DCR will work to find an available treatment bed. 

    • If there is no available involuntary treatment bed, then the DCR will not detain the person.

    • If the person is detained and admitted to a secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility, the person will likely go to court at the end of 72 hours and the court will decide if the person meets criteria for a commitment order for up to 14 days of further treatment.During this time, the person will be introduced to substance use treatment.

    • At the time of discharge from secure withdrawal management and stabilization, the person will be referred to the appropriate level of care such as intensive outpatient or residential treatment, which may be court ordered.

Please contact SecureSUD@dshs.wa.gov with further questions or concerns.