State seeks settlement over care for mentally ill defendants
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — State officials are working to settle a federal court case in which Washington has racked up nearly $50 million in fines for not providing faster care to mentally-ill defendants.
The details of an eventual settlement are still being negotiated but it appears the state will agree to pursue upgrades to the state’s mental health system, The News Tribune reported .
An agreement between the Department of Social and Health Services and the advocacy group Disability Rights Washington in February says the two groups believe collaborating on broad reforms to the mental health system will bring compliance with the court faster than the current status quo of “litigation of piecemeal issues.”
David Carlson, advocacy director for Disability Rights Washington, said in an interview Monday the current legal battle could lead the state to seek short-term solutions to what he described as a systemic problem. Instead, a settlement may bring bigger change, he said.
“This is the most significant opportunity to transform our mental health system that we have had, and that I can foresee,” Carlson said.
A Democratic supplemental budget proposal released Monday includes an extra $163 million to be spent on the mental health system, including nearly $10 million to build 45 psychiatric beds at the roughly 800-bed Western State Hospital in an effort to decrease wait times for services.
A proposal in the state’s supplemental construction budget would start work toward building another 60 beds on Western State’s campus in Lakewood.
Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com