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Lawyer For Psychiatric Patients Says State Had Time To Prepare For Boarding Ruling

Taber Andrew Bain
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The state of Washington doesn’t deserve extra time to start following mental health laws, according to the lawyer representing psychiatric patients who successfully challenged a practice known as “boarding.”

The attorney filed an official brief with the Washington Supreme Court Friday opposing the state’s request for a stay of its ruling.

The patients’ attorney argues the state should have been well aware it might lose in court. Policy experts and mental health advocates had sounded the alarm for years on holding patients in regular hospital emergency room beds without proper psychiatric care. The fact that the state wasn’t prepared when it did lose isn’t an excuse to continue to violate the law, according to the brief.

The state is now scrambling to find beds in certified mental health facilities for around 200 involuntarily committed patients. Washington has been “boarding” these patients when they couldn’t find the space elsewhere.

Officials at the Department of Social and Health Services say the court’s ruling means they may be forced to release patients who are a danger to themselves or other people. The state is asking for a stay on the ruling of 120 days.

The Supreme Court will consider the state’s request on Sept. 4.

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.