The Law and Involuntary Commitment January 2, 2012Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital, mental illness.
Tags: Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospitals, mental illness
You’d think that once a bill gets passed by the House and Senate and signed by the Governor, there would be no question whether the bill goes into effect. But that’s not true.
Back on March 17, 2010, I posted a blog entry about the passage of House Bill 3076. I was excited because it would no longer required Designated Mental Health Professionals to disregard evidence given by friends and family members of people with severe mental illness in their decision of whether to involuntarily commit a person with severe mental illness. Prior to this law, the Designated Mental Health Professional could not take into account testimony by friends and family members regarding the mental state of their friend or loved one.
Senate House Bill 3076 was a major victory for people with severe mental illness because it enabled them to get much-needed help by enabling their friends or loved ones to give evidence to the Mental Health Professional doing the assessment of the person with severe mental illness to determine whether that person should be involuntarily committed.
“Chapter 280, Laws of 2010 (Second Substitute House Bill 3076) expanded in two ways the factors that Designated Mental Health Professionals and the courts may consider when determining whether to commit a person to involuntary treatment. First, the 2010 law provides that a Designated Mental Health Professional must consider all reasonably available evidence from credible witnesses when determining whether to detain a person. Credible witnesses are defined as family, landlords, neighbors, and others with significant contact and history of involvement with the person. Second, the 2010 law additionally provides that, in determining whether to detain and commit, Designated Mental Health Professionals and the courts may consider symptoms and behavior that, standing alone would not justify commitment, but that show a marked deterioration in the person’s condition and are closely associated with symptoms and behavior that led to past involuntary psychiatric hospitalization or violent acts. The 2010 law set January 1, 2012 as the effective date for both of these changes”
At the time the bill was passed, I assumed that it would become effective immediately. In fact, I assumed this whole time that it was in effect. That assumption was obviously wrong. Had I read the bill more closely, I would have known that the law wouldn’t become effective until January 1, 2011.
I made another assumption as well. I assumed that, once the law came into effect, it would not and could not be revoked. That, too, was an assumption that was wrong.
In fact, another bill, Senate Bill 5987, gutted House Bill 3076. I was shocked at this turn of events.
Basically, the summary of Senate Bill 5987 changed the effective date of the 2010 statuary changes from January 1, 2012 to January 1, 2015.
The reason for the change, said the Staff Summary of Public Testimony, is that there isn’t sufficient treatment capacity to meet current involuntary needs, let alone increased demand. Already, said the new bill, between 25 to 50 percent of all persons involuntarily committed in King County are “boarded” in facilities that are not certified to accept such patients. The legislation, it said, needs to be passed in the special session before the January 1, 2012 effective date of the original legislation. Department of Social and Health Services supports to purpose of the 2010 legislation, but lacks the resources to implement it.
Although it is frustrating that the law is now delayed another three years, the reason it was delayed makes perfect sense. It’s yet another victim of our funding crisis.