State says it ended 'warehousing' of mentally ill patients

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington's Department of Social and Health Services says it has complied with a state Supreme Court order to stop the "warehousing" of mentally ill people in hospitals without treatment when certified treatment facilities are full.

The state's involuntary treatment act allows counties to briefly detain people who present an imminent risk of harm for the purpose of evaluation and treatment.

But without an adequate number of beds available in certified facilities, the state had been keeping people in regular hospitals without treatment while waiting for space to open up. The high court struck down that practice, called "psychiatric boarding," in August. It gave the state until Friday to comply.

DSHS Assistant Secretary Jane Beyer says that thanks to additional funding, 140 evaluation and treatment beds have been added to the state's mental health system. As of last week, only three patients statewide were being "boarded" because of a lack of beds in certified facilities — down from 36 in November.

Beyer said that as of Friday the state had discontinued the practice.