Bill Would Curb Ability of Psychiatrists to Decide Against Forcibly Treating People


Some family members of people diagnosed with mental illnesses are lobbying to give judges the power to overturn decisions by mental health professionals who do not think people need involuntary treatment, reported the Daily Astorian and K5 News.

“Joel’s Law” was already unanimously passed by the Washington State House last year in a different version before being stalled in the Senate, and is now before the House again. It would allow family members to apply for a judicial review of any decision by a mental health professional not to detain and forcibly treat someone.

The bill was conceived and is being pushed by Doug and Nancy Reuter, whose 28-year-old son Joel was killed in a police shooting. “The parents had tried unsuccessfully to get Joel committed for weeks,” reported the Seattle Times.

Nancy Reuter told the Astorian that many mental health professionals had repeatedly said that Joel was “not dangerous enough” to be committed. Doug Reuter said that mental health professionals “are out of control. They answer to nobody. They unilaterally decide who gets help.” The Reuters said they felt that “having a judge weigh in on those decisions would save lives.”

When the bill was opposed by some mental health professionals and mental health advocacy organizations during last year’s House debates, some politicians were surprised. “I got to tell you, I’m shocked that we’ve got advocates of mental-health organizations here opposing this bill that would make it easier to get those in need of treatment into treatment,” state Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend said, according to the Times. “I mean, I expected that from the criminal-defense bar, but from the mental-health professionals — I am shocked.”

According to K5 News, the American Civil Liberties Union worries some families could abuse the law. “We’ve made it easier and easier to commit people,” Shankar Narayan of the ACLU told K5. “We should remember there is a human being here, a mentally ill person, whose interest may not be aligned with the family members.”

Correction and update January 30, 2015: This article was corrected to reflect the fact that there was an earlier version of the bill last year that passed in the House and then stalled in the Senate, and a different version this year. The House passed the most recent version on January 30th, 2015, according to the Daily Astorian.

Families support judicial review of mental health decisions (Daily Astorian, January 19, 2015)

‘Joel’s Law’ supporters testify about struggles finding help for mentally ill (K5 News, January 19, 2015)

State House unanimously passes ‘Joel’s Law’; cost concerns remain (Seattle Times, February 14, 2014)

Some mental-health officials oppose commitment bill (Seattle Times, February 3, 2014)

House passes judicial review of mental health decisions (Daily Astorian, January 29, 2015)


  1. Psychiatrists have finally been caught in their lies. For years they have been convincing everyone that they had all the answers. “We have drugs that are like insulin for diabetes,” they all crowed. Now they are caught, they are finally having to admit that they don’t have the drugs that can change bad thoughts and behaviours. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

    Report comment

  2. They can’t just call in another professional who will commit!? More and more, mental patient is beginning to mean a person who has absolutely no recognized human rights. This kind of a legal decision makes the uphill struggle we’ve got ahead of ourselves to attain those basic rights, human and civil, even steeper, and more treacherous. It’s amusing to consider how much, I don’t know that subconscious is the right word to use here, but for lack of a better one, hatred some families have for their kin.

    Report comment

    • Dear Frank,
      Of course they can call in another professional who will commit. Just like they can forcefully take a child away from his/her family because the parents refuse to give their child a cocktail of psych meds, based on the report of the child’s pre-K teacher. Frank, I wish it weren’t so, but it is. The really sad part is that there are so many organizations that fight for the basic human rights of all people, and yet, their demonstrations and letters to the editors, are ignored . There are forces higher than us Frank, who have a lot of money and know how to use and abuse it to get even more drugs and money out there. And if you think that some of the family members of some of these patients are not on “the take” for a better phrase to describe the dollars they get for putting their family members on meds and in spin bins, just look into your state foster care system. There are some really big offenders there.

      Report comment

      • You’re singing to the choir here, fluffy48. The problem though is that we’ve got all sorts of “organizations that fight for the basic rights of all people” except for the rights of those people who find themselves in the mental health system, or of those people who find themselves in similar unfortunate predicaments. This is why it is so important for those of us who have been there to come to the aid of those who find themselves struggling with the system now. Although human rights may be a universal matter, apparently some judges think they know better than mental health professionals, while some mental health professionals are hardly better any than stuffed shirts, or worse, shirts stuffed to the collar with false information.

        Report comment

        • “apparently some judges think they know better than mental health professionals”
          That may in fact be the case. I’d on average more trust a judge than a psychiatrist. Sadly they usually call in the so-called “experts” so it all comes down to the same thing.
          Funny to know that there are some psychiatrists out there that actually don’t commit everyone everywhere for everything.

          Report comment

  3. There needs to be some sort of public expose of what is actually meant by the word “help,” and soon!
    I shudder to see this euphemism being used so effectively to justify the most horrendous assaults on human life and dignity imaginable.

    It wouldn’t be that difficult a task for a group of people informed on the science (or lack of it) involved to develop documented educational materials and talking points aimed at demystifying the Orwellian terminology being used to undermine our freedom and humanity. If done in a way that speaks to people’s day to day existence and avoids rhetoric, this information could be presented at PTA and Rotary Club meetings, churches, and community events, as well as before “progressive” venues.

    In may ways this is not a right-left issue, it is a “right to life” matter in the truest sense of the phrase, and should be vitally important to all who oppose totalitarianism and support everyone’s right to bodily integrity no matter what their religion, politics, or lifestyle.

    A coalition of well-informed and articulate professionals and “survivors” would be very effective here.

    Report comment

    • A recent story from Europe (Poland):
      A 13yr old was taken to the hospital feeling really sick. They run a few basic tests that showed nothing so they decided she was a mental case and shipped her off to psych ward where she was restrained to the bed and her parents were forbidden to see her. Soon after she died in restraints. Her parents blame the doctors: “they told us she was agitated but didn’t care to diagnose why she was agitated”. I guess the parents were not familiar with wonders of psychiatric circular diagnosis. Turns out the girl had toxic levels of ammonia in her blood – has she been diagnosed and treated she’d be likely alive today.

      Report comment

  4. Hi Frank…you are right, we do need an entire force of people to handle the situation. One such group that is helping all of those you have mentioned in your response is Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR).

    I have worked with them over the last 20 years and I lost count of the people that I helped to get out of psych hospitals and how many kids I saved from getting taken away from their families.

    I have also worked with the survivors of psych abuse, such as Mind Freedom, and Psych Rights, and we are doing good work, we just need a whole lot more of us doing this job. There are also attorneys that will work with us Pro Bono as well as legislative allies.

    I don’t know where you are located, but if you log onto, you can get hooked up with a lot of people who are fighting just like you are. Good luck to you.

    Report comment

  5. “power to overturn decisions by mental health professionals who do not think people need involuntary treatment”
    WHAT? What about the opposite? Then you can’t challenge the all-mighty psychiatrist but if you want to lock someone up – hey, that’s awesome. Especially for domestic abusers.

    Report comment

    • … and pastors who want to cover up child abuse … And husbands who want to steal their wives’ money … Yes, it’s so wonderful we live in a country where disagreements and crimes no longer need be dealt with in a court of law (sarcasm). All one needs to do to get away with a crime is to ship their victim off to be defamed and discredited by a psychiatrist.

      Report comment

  6. I read the bill (quickly.) It seems like it is going to legally require an enormous amount of work from a disputed “designated mental health professional” within a very short amount of time for no payment. Meanwhile people who are waiting for their “designated mental health professional” will go without treatment. Joel Reuter had a gun and was shooting at everything in sight, including the police who killed him. Gun control, anyone? Anyone, anyone? Why not make a f**king judge to run around town and sit in on all commitment decisions in the first place, it would cost less and save time.

    Report comment

  7. NAMI testified in favor of this bill, crafted and advanced by Doug and Nancy Reuters, parents of Joel Reuters…

    NAMI takes millions from the pharmaceutical industry.

    See more

    “Like the Reuters, Gretchen Allen said she tried and failed to get help for her son, Kirk. He was taken to an emergency room a half-dozen times but “told to go home, rest and heal,” she said. Without getting proper treatment, Kirk took his own life, she said.”

    “Without getting proper treatment”

    Just exactly WHAT IS proper treatment ??? Getting drugged into zombie oblivion ?

    If there damb “help” actually was help people would volunteer for it but instead they often abuse the shit out of people so even if they wanted help the last place they would go would be one of psychiatry’s hell hole hospitals

    Report comment