House sends fast-tracked mental health bill to Gov. Inslee

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A bill to establish a 14-day deadline for mental health evaluations of people charged in crimes has passed the Washington Legislature and is headed to Gov. Inslee for his signature.

By a wide margin, a bipartisan group of House members Monday passed the measure that gives a hard deadline to complete mental-health screenings of defendants in jail or in state hospitals. The measure previously passed the Senate. Washington is currently defending a class-action lawsuit over allegations some defendants have been forced to stay in jails for weeks or months while waiting for evaluations. Existing policy gives jails and hospitals a one-week target to evaluate the mental health of people in custody. A lack of beds and staff has led to long waitlists.

Under the bill, any facility that exceeds 14 days in completing evaluations must face the governor and Legislature.