The Washington State Supreme Court ruled Thursday that boarding psychiatric patients temporarily in hospital emergency rooms and acute care centers because there isn’t space at certified psychiatric treatment facilities is unlawful.
The court ruled unanimously that patients held temporarily in settings that don’t provide individualized psychiatric treatment violates the state’s Involuntary Treatment Act.
“It’s always been inhumane not to provide treatment, now it’s clearly illegal,” said Ross Hunter, D-Medina, Chair of the State House Appropriations Committee. Hunter said the state will have to respond sooner than the Legislature can act, which might not be until a new budget can be approved next spring.
“If a client is strapped to an emergency bed rather than being in a psychiatric treatment environment, it can be traumatic for the patient and can certainly delay healing,” De Felice said. Effective outpatient treatment can also be less costly, he said.
The Supreme Court said in its ruling that patients may not be warehoused without treatment because of a lack of funds nor can it justify the state’s failure to provide the treatment necessary for recovery.
The ruling quotes the Involuntary Treatment Act which says, “Each person involuntarily detained or committed pursuant to (the Act) shall have the right to adequate care and individualized treatment.”