Long psychiatric care wait for mentally ill WA defendants in jail

Watch the full investigation into the backlog of mentally ill defendants in Washington awaiting jail time for psychiatric care on KING 5 News at 6:30pm and 11pm

SEATTLE – Washington state is experiencing a self-described “crisis” with the largest backlog in state history of mentally ill defendants sitting in prison awaiting access to medical help. by order of the court.

Record wait times behind bars for people with severe mental illness – accused defendants are said to be unable to understand the charges against them – are creating chaos, suffering and a toll Huge financials are possible for the state.

KING 5 investigators found non-compliance Court order and state law The timely transfer of defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial in state mental hospitals could cost the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs (MOH).DSHS) $300 million in fines currently in effect.

“That is obviously a big concern,” said Dr. Brian WaiblingerDSHS Medical Director and acting medical director at Western State Hospital in Steilacoom near Tacoma.

“It’s taxpayer dollars, so of course it’s relevant. I would rather spend those dollars on patient services than complete some kind of fine that doesn’t directly relate to patient care.”

Seven years ago, after civil rights advocates including Washington Disability Rights and ACLU Washington filed a class action lawsuit litigation against DSHS, called Trueblood case, a federal court ruled that the state “violates the constitutional rights of some of its most vulnerable citizens” by allowing people accused of mental illness to spend weeks or months in prison before treated to stabilize them. This service is called rehabilitation – an effort to bring patients to a point where they can participate in their legal case.

“Our prisons are not suitable places for mentally ill people to be admitted while they wait for service. Prisons are not hospitals, they are not designed as a therapeutic setting, and they are not equipped to manage mental illness,” wrote the U.S. District Judge. Marsha Pechman in Trueblood 2015 Order.

Pechman ordered DSHS to provide capacity assessments to persons with serious mental illness within 14 days of incarceration and, if deemed necessary, rehabilitation services within seven days.

Despite the federal court ruling and millions of dollars spent on additional resources, state records show wait times have gotten worse, not better.

During hearings this year at King County Superior Court in Seattle, defenders publicly said their clients are suffering state setbacks.

“(My client) desperately needs medical attention and every day she has to take (in prison) harmful compounds,” a lawyer said at a hearing in July. “Sir, the suffering here is very serious, and my client should not bear the brunt of state misconduct and intentional and intentional mismanagement.”

“When I visited (my client), I witnessed with my own eyes the conditions he was living in, and they were horrifying. He was in a concrete bunker all day. These are people who are living in their own excrement, in their own filth at all hours of the day. “

Disdain state

Trueblood Court Monitor report showed that in 2015, the average wait time for rehabilitation services at Western State Hospital was less than a month. By 2022, waits have more than quadrupled compared to those having to wait four months or longer.

“I’m very disappointed. It’s a real human tragedy,” said ACLU Legal Director Washington. La Rond Baker. Baker was on the legal team that filed a lawsuit against the Trueblood case that resulted in a seven-day deadline to transfer the defendants to the hospital. “I was shocked and I am still shocked that seven years later we are in this position. We are a progressive and free nation, but we really don’t fund and don’t prioritize providing mental health services to those who need it most.”

DSHS: We’re in for a ‘perfect storm’

Top state officials who oversee Western State Hospital and programs for defendants with mental illness in Washington say the state has been hit by a “perfect storm” this year that makes time wait increases. Dr. Thomas Kinlen, director of DSHS Forensic Mental Health Services Office, said the impact of COVID-19 is having a particularly severe impact on the current situation. Western State Hospital has had a number of frozen admissions during the pandemic, creating a backlog of cases that currently clogs the system.

“(We’re in) a capacity crisis,” Kinlen said. “It is crushing. It’s not very good. Every morning, I want to see the lower waiting list”.

State officials say they are also plagued by severe staff shortages. At Western State, about a quarter of the jobs are not filled.

“We were in a situation where we could have money for a show but then we had to have the staff to run it,” Kinlen said. “We are doing everything we can to get them out of (prison) as quickly as possible. We don’t want them to go to jail. It’s not what we see as the treatment they need.”

DSHS officials say the biggest factor driving long wait times is an increase in demand for rehabilitation services. In the last year alone, Western State has seen a 40% increase in referrals from the courts in western Washington, according to DSHS court statement.

“We know in advance that services will increase over time. We know that,” said Waiblinger, DSHS medical director. “What happened recently, we don’t understand it, and certainly we didn’t predict. I don’t think anyone expected that to happen.”

Alexander Jay in Seattle is one of the defendants in the King County Jail awaiting medical assistance to rehabilitate to appear in court. His case has attracted widespread attention attention for his alleged random acts of violence against strangers, including accused of murder on Capitol Hill and a attack in the international zone was caught on Sound Transit security cameras in March.

In April, King County Superior Court Judge Johanna Bender found Jay unable to appear in court and asked DSHS to begin treatment in Western State within seven days. Jay has been waiting behind bars for more than seven months.

“The length of time that Mr. Jay was asked to wait was brutal,” Bender said at a hearing in September.

“Unbelievable. You want to get on with your life, you want it done,” says Kim Hayes, a Harborview trauma nurse who is Jay. accused of assault in the train station when she goes to work.

She broke her collarbone and ribs and thought she would be killed if she didn’t fight back.

“It changes your life forever. And you’ll never feel as safe as before,” says Hayes, “I want to get on with my life, but I’d go faster if there was a solution to get him into a proper bed, a place fit. I want him to get the care he needs.”

RELATED: State Pays Seattle Light Train Station Attack Suspect $250 Every Day He Doesn’t Get Treatment

Why hundreds of millions of dollars in fines may be due

As the Trueblood case progressed through the court system, Pechman, a U.S. District judge, twice held DSHS contempt for failing to meet deadlines.

“(DSHS has) failed to meet all deadlines, including those they set themselves,” Pechman wrote in 2017 order. “Their defenses remain the same and their planning is incomplete… The court hopes (the state) will stop their delay and their false promises.”

At the time, she imposed sanctions to try to force “obey orders.” Between 2016 and 2018, the lack of compliance cost DSHS $88 million in fines. Then a year 2018 settlement agreement fines are suspended, but they are still being checked for not meeting deadlines. State records compiled by KING 5 show that if the total bill were due today, it would exceed $300 million.

“It’s an unbelievable number,” said Kinlen, director of DSHS forensic mental health services. “The state has always known that (we may have to pay a fine).”

Trueblood fines paid to date have been used to bolster the state’s efforts to help residents receive services before crimes are committed. DSHS and Washington State Health care agency created some”redirect program“It aims to reduce both exposure to the legal system and the need for capacity services. The diversion programs are located in counties including Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston, Spokane and Yakima.

“We are thinking in an innovative way,” says Waiblinger. “We can have these conversations on a daily basis. We’re having strategic conversations: ‘What else can we do?’ “

DSHS has added about 160 psychiatric beds since the Trueblood trial in 2015. More new beds are expected to be made available over the next few years:

  • The 58 new beds at Western State Hospital will open in 2023.
  • 16 beds in a residential facility Maple Lane campus near Rochester, opening in 2023.
  • The 30 Maple Lane beds for the innocent by reason of insanity will open in 2023.
  • 48 beds in Clark County near Vancouver scheduled to open in 2024

“We’re adding capacity as quickly as we can, but adding more beds and closing them takes time,” Kinlen said. “Unfortunately, the demand for rehabilitation services continues to grow and grow and evolve.”

From the bench, Bender, the King County judge, said DSHS should have expected an increase in needed services and planned accordingly.

“Government tardiness is unconscionable,” said Bender, “It is not consistent with the behavior of a civilized society. That is completely outrageous. “

CLOCK: KING 5 Investigators playlist on YouTube


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

https://www.king5.com/article/news/investigations/mentally-ill-defendants-jail-washington/281-b65a8b1a-16c8-428e-85ee-3551bb6d0ebb Long psychiatric care wait for mentally ill WA defendants in jail

Edmund DeMarche

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