We want you to help us build a new mental health system in Washington State.

Learn when the upcoming stakeholder meetings are and how you can get involved below.

Background

All people charged with a crime have the constitutional right to assist in their own defense. If a court believes a mental disability may prevent someone from assisting in their own defense, the court puts the criminal case on hold while an evaluation is completed to determine the person’s competency and whether they need treatment to restore competency. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has the obligation under state law to provide these competency evaluation and restoration services.

Each year, thousands of people with disabilities, especially mental illness, sit for weeks and even months in jails across the state waiting for competency evaluation and restoration services. Their time in jail is often spent in solitary confinement with very limited or no mental health treatment, which often leads to deterioration in the person’s mental health. Some people spend more time in jail awaiting competency evaluation and restoration services than they would have if convicted of the crime and sentenced to jail time. This problem affects people charged with serious crimes and those charged with nonviolent misdemeanors.

A.B. by and through Trueblood et. al. v Washington State DSHS, No. 15–35462 (often referred to simply as Trueblood) is a class action lawsuit that enforces a person’s constitutional right to timely competency evaluation and restoration services. Class members are all people waiting in jail for court-ordered competency evaluation and restoration services.

After a trial in 2015, the U.S. District Court ruled that DSHS was violating class members’ constitutional rights and ordered DSHS to offer competency evaluation and restoration services within specific timeframes. The Court has since found DSHS in contempt and imposed tens of millions of dollars in monetary sanctions based on DSHS’s ongoing failure to comply with the Court’s Orders. Class members continue to wait for weeks and months in jail often experiencing needless harm and suffering.

Current Status

Many of the problems with untimely competency evaluation and restoration services can be prevented if we can stop people with mental illness from unnecessarily entering the criminal system. When people are able to get the treatment they need in the community when they need it, they are more likely to avoid arrest and jailing. They are also less likely to place strains on the civil inpatient system.

Instead of continuing to seek additional contempt orders through litigation, which has yielded hefty contempt fines but has failed to eliminate the delays for class members, Plaintiffs have agreed to undertake a new and ambitious project with the state. The Parties are currently engaged in a process to negotiate and develop a comprehensive settlement agreement using stakeholder input and expert assistance. The goal is to reform the current forensic mental health care system in Washington and finally bring DSHS into compliance with the Court’s Orders. The stakeholder meeting will explain these developments and solicit input from stakeholders like you on what should be under consideration to make lasting change.

Want to know more? Watch a February 2018 webinar explaining these developments. Then email the taskforce to let us know how you would like to be involved. truebloodtaskforce@dshs.wa.gov.

Get involved! Attend an upcoming Trueblook Taskforce Stakeholder Meeting. 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. 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 taken under consideration to make lasting change.

Upcoming meetings:

  • Region: Clark County; Date & Time: April 25, 2018 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.; Location & Address: Fort Vancouver Regional Library, 1007 E Mill Plain Blvd, Vancouver, WA 98663
  • Region: Spokane County; Date & Time: April 27, 2018, TBD ; Location & Address: Gonzaga Law School, 721 N Cincinnati St, Spokane, WA 99202
  • Region: Eastside Rural Counties; Date & Time: April 27, 2018, TBD; Location & Address: Gonzaga Law School, 721 N Cincinnati St, Spokane, WA 99202

Diversion Funding for Service Providers

The State of Washington has paid many millions of dollars in fines for failing to comply with the Court’s Orders in Trueblood. In 2016, the Court ordered this money be used to fund programs that keep class members out of jail, creating a Trueblood Diversion Workgroup comprised of Plaintiff and Defendant counsel, representatives from DSHS, the Court Monitor Danna Mauch PhD, and an additional expert to assist Dr. Mauch.

This Workgroup has since identified and funded service providers from around the state who are working to divert people with mental illness and other disabilities from the criminal system. Since late 2016, the Trueblood Diversion Workgroup has released three separate Requests for Proposal and now funds eight projects. Funding of an additional five providers is anticipated for the summer of 2018. The most recent RFP is available here. Grant recipients include:

Phase I, operational July 1, 2017:

  1. Comprehensive Mental Health Services
  2. Great Rivers Behavioral Health Organization
  3. King County
  4. Kitsap Mental Health Services
  5. Sunrise Services

Phase II, operational March 1, 2018:

  1. Catholic Charities
  2. Pierce County
  3. Thurston-Mason Behavioral Health Organization

Phase III, anticipated operational July 1, 2018*:

  1. Comprehensive Mental Health Services
  2. Frontier Behavioral Health
  3. Lourdes Health Services
  4. King County/LEAD/DESC/CHMHA
  5. Pierce County

* Selected providers are awaiting Court approval

Case Documents

Press

The Olympian: With $50M in fines piled up over help for mentally ill, the state is seeking a settlement
The News Tribune: With $50M in fines piled up over help for mentally ill, the state is seeking a settlement
The News Tribune: Contempt order and more fines for agency slow to provide mental-health evaluations

The Seattle Times: Judge hold Washington state mental-health agency in contempt, orders fines

The Spokesman-Review: Judge holds Washington state mental health agency in contempt, orders fines

The Spokesman-Review: Federal judge scolds state for treatment of mentally ill
TDN Op-Ed: Friday Free Form – State Fines Growing
The Lewiston Tribune: State accrues $7.5M in contempt fines
The Bellingham Herald: State accrues almost $7.5 million in contempt fines
Seattle PI: State pays thousands in fines as jailed patients wait in limbo
The Spokesman-Review: Judge gives Washington mental hospitals more time to fix programs
KOMO News: Federal Judge gives state time to help inmates with mental illness
The Spokesman-Review: State seeks clarity on ruling about holding
Wall Street Journal: Mental Health treatment for defendants dogged by delays
AP: Judge: Washington must fix problem with jailing mentally ill
The Seattle Times Editorial: DSHS should be mitigating, not litigating, mental health problems
The Seattle Times: Federal trial to tackle state’s mental competency waitlists
Reuters: Washington judge hears testimony over long jail holds for mentally ill
NPR: Mentally ill languish in Washington jails; Federal trial set to begin
The Spokesman-Review: Eastern State Hospital sanctioned over delayed mental health evaluations
The Oregonian: Judge says Washington wrong to jail mentally ill awaiting competency hearing
The Seattle Times Editorial: Defending the “indefensible” in the mental-health system
The Seattle Times Editorial: Escaping the mental-health abyss
WSH RN.net: Trueblood v. DSHS