Washington’s Supreme Court has unanimously declared it illegal under state law to forcibly detain psychiatric patients in hospital emergency rooms when there’s a lack of available treatment beds in psychiatric wards, reports The News Tribune. The Tribune says such “psychiatric boarding” has “pretty much exploded” across the state in the past seven years, with 3,421 mental patients detained in emergency departments in 2013. “The ruling noted that the state’s civil commitment system has been ‘regularly overwhelmed’ since the Legislature enacted the Involuntary Treatment Act in 1979.”
“The central idea: No vacancy is no excuse,” reports the Tribune. “In the absence of a specific medical need, the state cannot detain people against their will solely to ease overcrowding without providing treatment.”
“I’m feeling pretty good today,” Chris Jennings, a legal representative for mental patients told the Tribune. “I think they got it exactly right.”
“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, a deputy director for the government’s mental-health agency in a statement.
Supreme Court strikes down ‘psychiatric boarding’ of mentally ill (The News Tribune, August 7, 2014)