Currently, approximately 550 people are held on long-term civil commitment orders at Washington’s two state-run psychiatric hospitals, Western State Hospital (WSH) and Eastern State Hospital (ESH). These settings are the most restrictive and expensive treatment setting available in the state. The state has determined that nearly half of the civil patients at WSH and ESH are ready for discharge, but they remain stuck in the hospital while they wait for housing and community-based supports to be arranged. The average wait-time for discharge from WSH and ESH after a patient has been determined discharge-ready is nearly 6 months. 

When patients are finally discharged, it is often to unnecessarily segregated and restrictive congregate care settings. Instead, patients could and should be discharged to less restrictive settings. Many of the WSH and ESH patients currently discharged to group homes or other congregate care facilities could be better served in supported housing programs with appropriate community-based mental health and other supports.  

On December 2, 2022, after nearly a year of negotiations, Disability Rights Washington finalized a settlement agreement with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and Health Care Authority to address state hospital discharge delays, and better ensure that people are not confined in expensive, institutional settings longer than necessary.     

As part of the settlement, DRW has agreed not to initiate litigation related to state hospital civil discharge delays for three years. In exchange, the state will create new uniform policies governing civil discharge planning at both hospitals; implement several new requirements to better ensure timely discharge planning; and commit to a presumption in discharge planning that most civil patients leaving the state hospitals can live in their own home with appropriate supports. 

According to David Carlson, DRW’s Director of Advocacy, “DRW is committed to assuring that Washington State meets is obligation under the Olmstead decision and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and does not hold people unnecessarily in institutional settings. By reaching this settlement agreement, DRW continues to work to achieve that goal.”

Learn more on the Case page here:

Doorway of Western State Hospital building
Image: Doorway of Western State Hospital