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Washington Supreme Court Affirms Mental Health ‘Boarding’ Unlawful

Wikimedia Commons
File photo of the Washington Supreme Court chambers.

The practice of "boarding" mental health patients in hospital emergency rooms is unlawful, the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday.

The justices upheld a lower court ruling in the case of 10 psychiatric patients who were involuntarily detained under state law, then placed in non-psychiatric beds.

Emily Cooper, an attorney with Disability Rights Washington, calls the ruling a victory for severely mentally-ill patients.

“What the court ruled is when folks need mental health treatment, they should get it. And they should not be held in medical facilities where they’re not getting care or treatment and they continue to be a risk to themselves or others without treatment,” she said.

The state of Washington argued in court that the alternative to boarding is to send dangerous mental health patients back into the community. Lawmakers recently funded more mental health beds. But this Supreme Court decision will likely create pressure for even more funding.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.