Urgently Seeking Experienced Diversion Providers to Help Keep People with Disabilities Out of Jail

inmate huddled on bed covered in a blanket in a jail cell

by Gillian Maguire
December 5, 2016

Each year, thousands of individuals are sitting for weeks and even months for competency services in jails across Washington. None of these people have actually been convicted of any crime, but they are held in jails ill-equipped to meet their mental health needs even though a court has ordered that they receive competency services due to concerns with their ability to stand trial.

In an effort to remedy this problem, in August 2014, DRW filed a case called A.B. by and through Trueblood et. al. v Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Class members are all pretrial detainees waiting in jail for court-ordered competency services that Defendants are statutorily required to provide. The U.S. District Court is seeking providers to help people with mental illness and other disabilities avoid going to and stay out of jail. Since DRW filed suit, unfortunately, the state has failed to reduce wait times for admission to the state hospitals to seven days or less as required by the U.S. District Court. This means class members are still facing prolonged wait times in jails even though a court has ordered them to the state psychiatric hospitals so that they can receive competency services.

In July, the Court found the state in contempt [PDF] and began fining the state every day anywhere between $500 and $1000 dollars (depending on how long each class members has been waiting in jail). So far, the state has been fined over $5 million. The Court has ordered the contempt fines be spent on diverting class members from jail.

The parties have been working collaboratively and have agreed that these funds should be spent on either:

  1. pre-booking screenings or same day evaluations to divert those who should not be in jail but instead served in the community or other less restrictive settings, or
  2. intensive supports to class members upon release from jail to help ensure that they can stay safe in their own homes and communities.

According to DRW attorney Emily Cooper, "We are reaching out to the community for help locating service providers who are committed to diverting people with mental illness and other disabilities from the criminal justice system and supporting them in the community. People are encouraged to share this Trueblood Diversion Request for Proposals (RFP) with existing, experienced and credentialed providers immediately."

The deadline for submitting an application to become a Trueblood Diversion service provider is January 4, 2017. Check out more information about the Trueblood  Diversion Request for Proposals here. You can also learn more about the Trueblood case here.  All inquires, letters of intent, and Trueblood Diversion RFP submissions should be sent to the Trueblood Court Monitor, Dr. Danna Mauch, at [email protected]