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Washington Supreme Court Puts Hospital Boarding Decision On Hold

Taber Andrew Bain
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The state of Washington will not have to start discharging severely mentally-ill patients starting this week. The Supreme Court on Monday put a hold on a recent ruling that says it’s illegal for the state to “board” psychiatric patients in non-psychiatric hospital beds.

That ruling was supposed to take effect this Wednesday. But the state, along with mental health advocates, asked the Supreme Court for a 120-day stay. That would give time – theoretically – to open up 145 new psychiatric beds statewide.

Gov. Jay Inslee has approved $30 million in emergency funding to do this. The Supreme Court has now said it will consider the motion for a stay on Sept. 4. In the meantime, the court’s ruling will not go into effect.

This whole situation stems from a lawsuit filed on behalf of several psychiatric patients who were involuntarily committed and then held in regular hospital beds. The court said that’s unlawful.

State officials have said they want to avoid a situation where patients who pose a threat to themselves or others are released due to a lack of psychiatric beds.

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.