State faces additional $250 million in fines for leaving mentally ill inmates in Washington jails

Civil rights lawyers have filed a petition against DSHS for allegedly violating the Trueblood case that sets out timelines for providing services to mentally ill inmates.

KING DISTRICT, Wash. — Civil rights advocates from Disability Rights Washington (DRW) submitted a movement in federal court on Thursday asked a judge to hit the Department of Health and Social Services (DSHS) with additional sanctions of hundreds of millions of dollars for failing to provide mental health services. promptly for prisoners deemed incompetent to appear in court.

DRW attorneys said they had no choice but to file a petition for additional sanctions to encourage the state to comply with the timelines set by Judge Marsha Pechman in the landmark. real blood lawsuit, originally filed in 2014 against DSHS.

“We’ve reached a point where we don’t feel like we have any other choice,” said Kim Mosolf, an attorney for DRW. “We feel compelled to take this step on behalf of the members of our class.”

Judge Pechman rule that DSHS must transport prisoners with serious mental illness from local prisons to a state psychiatric facility within seven days. But throughout 2022, waiting time has increased to 8, 9, and 10 months.

“Longer prison waits mean more harm – more time in solitary confinement, more time for illness to become… harder to treat and more time without care. health they need,” DRW attorneys wrote in the legal filing.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys representing about 600 people currently sitting in prison say the wait time violated court orders and regulations in 2018. settlement agreement which suspends fines. The new petition asks the judge to order the payment of those sanctions because the state is “seriously violating” the agreement.

Prior to the settlement, DSHS paid $98 million in penalties for not meeting treatment deadlines. The unpaid bill for the pending sanctions is an additional $250 million.

DSHS officials said they had fulfilled their obligations under the agreement.

“We disagree that it violates the obligations the department has committed to in the context of the case and the Trueblood agreement. We have built more beds than promised in the agreement and rolled out new services across Washington state as required. In the face of new and unexpected challenges that were not part of the settlement and were not even contemplated at the time the settlement was created, we are developing new solutions and treatment options,” said Lisa. Pemberton, DSHS’ director of media relations writes.

The petition also asks Judge Pechman to order DSHS to introduce other conditions to reduce waiting times, including:

  • Stop accepting patients in the civil system, except in cases of violent felony.
  • Discharge of civilian patients can be safely released into the community.
  • Double daily sanctions for those who wait more than seven days to be transported to the hospital.

DSHS officials said they did not anticipate the dramatic increase in people needing so-called “rehabilitation services” in state facilities. In the last year, that demand has increased by nearly 40%, state records show.

Judge Pechman is expected to address the issues raised in the new petition filed at the Trueblood status hearing on January 18.

Clock: Judge fines DSHS for delay in treatment State faces additional $250 million in fines for leaving mentally ill inmates in Washington jails

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