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A Pierce County Superior Court Judge has ruled in favor of 28 counties in WA state in their lawsuit against the Department of Social and Health Services.

Judge rules DSHS Must treat persons who cannot stand trial

The lawsuit was filed in August of this year, by 28 counties including (alphabetical order) Asotin, Clallam, Cowlitz, Douglas, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Klickitat, Lewis, Lincoln, Pacific, Pierce, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Whatcom as well as Yakima.

The suit claimed DSHS had violated its statutory obligation to mentally evaluate and treat people who are found to be incompetent or otherwise mentally unfit to be tried in court for criminal offenses.

According to The Washington Standard, the lawsuit claimed that:

 "...the department’s decision to stop providing initial evaluation and treatment for a rising number of patients who exit the criminal legal system after they are determined unfit for trial is harmful to the patients and to public safety."

At issue are what are called civil conversion patients. These people are found unfit to stand trial for criminal offenses and are then sent to DSHS to determine if they should be civilly, or involuntarily, committed.

The lawsuit claimed since December 2022, DSHS has selectively rejected a significant number of conversion patients.

Judge  Michael Schwartz's ruling means DSHS must immediately return to the statutory policy of evaluating all such persons.

According to The Center Square, DSHS used a federal court judge's ruling from a different case to argue they were no longer responsible for such care. They also said requests to perform this kind of evaluation had risen by 145 percent over the last 9 fiscal years.

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The lawsuit also demanded DSHS give public notification of any releases of conversion patients, in the interest of public safety.


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