WA Supreme Court rules 'psychiatric boarding' illegal

August 7, 2014

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that warehousing individuals with mental illness in hospital emergency rooms where they do not get the mental health treatment they need violates state law.

In a case (In re Detention of DW) arising out of Pierce County, the state and county had argued the practice, known as “psychiatric boarding,” was occurring because of the lack of available certified psychiatric treatment beds. Following reasoning similar to that in a friend-of-the-court brief submitted by Disability Rights Washington (DRW), the National Alliance on Mental Illness Washington (NAMI), and the ACLU of Washington, the Court rejected that justification. The Court found that the government’s authority to use civil commitment for mental health treatment purposes carries with it the obligation to meet patients’ constitutional rights to receive individualized treatment.

See press release and related media