By Zakia Ruquiya, GPS Lead Parent Partner

Current language sets a different standard for persons delivered to an ED by a police officer than those who have arrived voluntarily. ED’s are provided with the authority to detain a person pending an evaluation by a DMHP in either instance, but the time period they are allowed to detain an individual is 12 hours from the time they arrive in the ED for police referrals, as opposed to six hours from the time the determination has been made that an evaluation is necessary.

Medical Stabilization Must Occur First

Only once the person is medically cleared can the determination be made whether referral for involuntary commitment is appropriate. Then the DMHP’s evaluation must occur, and less restrictive alternatives to detention must be explored.

DMHP’s Need Time to Investigate Thoroughly

As a result of the current inconsistency in the law, the statutory timeline is often violated and referral to the DMHP occurs after the 12 hours have elapsed. The DMHP needs time to conduct an investigation, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and “considering all reasonable available information” including: prior recommendations for civil commitment; history of violent acts; prior determinations of incompetency or insanity; and prior commitments- all within the time remaining in the 12-hour time frame.

Requested New RCW Language

We are requesting that this new language be replaced within the RCW. Within six hours of arrival, the person must be examined by a mental health professional. The designated mental health professional must determine whether the individual meets detention criteria.

When a Designated Mental Health Professional receives information alleging that a person, as the result of a mental disorder, presents an imminent likelihood of serious harm, or is in imminent danger because of being gravely disabled, after investigation and evaluation of the specific facts alleged and of the reliability and credibility of the person or persons providing the information if any, the designated mental health professional.