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Critics Assail Proposal To Allow Limited Psychiatric Boarding In Washington

National Institute of Mental Health

Mental health advocates in Washington are assailing a proposal to allow psychiatric boarding in limited cases.

Boarding is when mental health patients are held involuntarily in a non-psychiatric setting, like an emergency department. It was a widespread practice in Washington until last year when the Supreme Court ruled it was illegal.

Since then, the state has scrambled to open up more psychiatric beds. But a trio of Washington state senators has introduced legislation that would allow boarding in cases where all other options have been exhausted.

Republican Sen. Steve O’Ban is the prime sponsor.

“We have some who may get released who should not be released because they need treatment or because of public safety issues,” O'Ban said.

Helen Nilon advocates for the mentally ill. She testified that boarding is unsafe and unconstitutional.

“It robs an individual of their civil and human rights,” she said.

After the hearing, O’Ban said he would rework the legislation.  

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.