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Washington Supreme Court Grants 120-Day Stay In Psychiatric Boarding Ruling

Taber Andrew Bain

The state of Washington now has until the end of the year to stop “boarding” mental health patients in non-psychiatric hospital beds. The Supreme Court on Friday granted a 120-day stay in a ruling that declared the practice of boarding illegal. 

This basically buys the state some breathing room. The Department of Social and Health Services will now have until Dec. 26 to open 145 new psychiatric beds across the state. Gov. Jay Inslee has freed up $30 million for the effort. As of late last month, about 200 patients were being boarded in non-psychiatric beds. 

Mary Kay Clunies-Ross with the Washington State Hospital Association says after the 120 days, there may still be cases where a psychiatric patient is placed in a regular hospital bed because of other medical issues, but we will see some changes. 

"Will they be sitting in an emergency room waiting indefinitely? I don’t think we’ll see that the way we see it now," Clunies-Ross said.

The state of Washington said the 120-day stay was necessary to prevent the release of mentally-ill patients who pose a danger to themselves or others. The delay was opposed by the attorney for the psychiatric patients who originally filed suit over the practice of boarding. The court’s decision to grant the stay was unanimous.

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.