- Disability Rights Washington - https://www.disabilityrightswa.org -

Please join us: Washington State Mental Health Reform Taskforce Meetings

Disability Rights Washington (DRW) and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) are seeking input from individuals who have accessed mental health services through jails, hospitals, and in the community, and their friends and family members. We are also seeking input from professional advocates who serve and interact with these individuals. DRW and DSHS are currently negotiating comprehensive changes to the forensic mental health system in order to bring the State into compliance under A.B. by and through Trueblood et. al. v. Washington State DSHS [1] (often referred to simply as Trueblood), a class action lawsuit that enforces a person’s constitutional right to timely competency evaluation and restoration services. We intend to explore opportunities to provide access to appropriate behavioral health services designed to dramatically reduce the number of individuals entering the criminal justice system.

The stakeholder meetings will explain these developments and solicit input from stakeholders like you on what should be under consideration to make lasting change.

Please view the upcoming meeting dates on this page: https://www.disabilityrightswa.org/cases/ab-v-dshs/ [1]

If you know of other advocacy groups or individual advocates that would be important to include, please feel free to forward this invitation or email truebloodtaskforce@dshs.wa.gov [2].

Background on Trueblood

All criminal defendants have the constitutional rights to assist in their own defense. If a court believes a mental disability may prevent a defendant from assisting in their own defense, the court puts the criminal case on hold while an evaluation is completed to determine the defendant’s competency. If the evaluation finds the defendant competent, they can be returned to stand trial. However, if the court finds the evaluation shows the person is not competent, the court may then order the defendant to receive mental health treatment to restore competency.

In April 2015, a federal court found that the Department of Social and Health Services was taking too long to provide these competency evaluation and restoration services.

Where we are today:

There is a mental health crisis in our state. The demand for all forms of mental health services far outweighs what is currently available. That includes competency evaluation and restoration services.

Many of the problems with untimely competency evaluation and restoration services can be prevented if fewer people with mental illness enter the criminalsystemto begin with. When people are able to get the treatment they need, when they need it, they are more likely to avoid the criminal justice system. They are also less likely to place strains on the civil inpatient system. We intend to explore opportunities to provide access to appropriate behavioral health services designed to dramatically reduce the number of individuals entering the criminal justice system – enabling the state to meet the constitutional competency evaluation and restoration services timelines.

We need to hear from you:

You are receiving this notification because you have experienced the mental health system, have a friend or family member who has, or works with these individuals to help them access services, benefits housing, or other needs. Your voice is needed to ensure that any changes to the mental health system work for the community affected.

Webinar information:

If you are unable to attend this meeting in person, there will be an opportunity to attend via webinar. We will forward the information to log in to the webinar via a separate email.