Settlement for statewide class action approved by court

“Like an apple seed, a kid can grow if he doesn’t get put in a box,” said Phillip Smith, one of the 10 youth who filed T.R. et al. v. Quigley et al., a class action lawsuit calling for reform of Washington’s mental health system for children.

Earlier today, Smith and other youth attended a Fairness Hearing where U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly approved an agreement obligating Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services and Health Care Authority to develop and provide intensive, individualized mental health services to Medicaid-­‐eligible young people in their homes or communities.

“Treating children at home whenever possible,” said Patrick Gardner, an attorney with Young Minds Advocacy Project, “is more humane, less costly, and more effective than institutionalization.” Under the agreement the state will establish a new program and approach for delivering mental health services called Wraparound with Intensive Services or “WISe.”

The program will help prevent adverse outcomes for youth with serious mental illness such as hospitalization, long-­‐term institutionalization in psychiatric facilities, and placements in the foster care and juvenile justice systems.

These are all experiences Smith has known personally and doesn’t want repeated for other kids. “This case,” says Smith, “was about doing something to make a difference so kids with illnesses like mine won’t have to go through the things I did.”

Leecia Welch, Senior Attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, agrees. “Approval of this settlement has set the stage for increasing access to appropriate mental health services for Washington’s most vulnerable youth. Better access to care means better outcomes for kids like Phillip.”

To Smith, “change is the key word” to describe the settlement. The changes to Washington’s public mental health system will include providing class members with access to intensive care coordination, intensive home and community based services, and mobile crisis intervention and stabilization.

“These services will be coordinated using child and family teams,” said Kimberly Lewis, Senior Attorney at the National Health Law Program. “Using a collaborative teaming approach has been demonstrated to improve outcomes for children and families.”

Now that the agreement has been approved, the State must work to increase its statewide capacity to deliver intensive, individualized services. Washington expects to serve as many as 6,000 young people each year once the settlement is fully implemented. Due to the size and scope of the system reform, it will take as long as five years to complete implementation.

“Once fully implemented, the scope and reach of this program will fundamentally transform Washington’s public mental health system and the way it helps thousands of children,” said David Carlson, Director of Legal Advocacy at Disability Rights Washington.

Phillip Smith and the Plaintiff class are represented by lawyers from Disability Rights Washington, Perkins Coie, the National Center for Youth Law, the National Health Law Program, and Young Minds Advocacy Project.

Please read the full press release here.