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Legislature approves Schlicher bill to improve communications in mental health treatment

OLYMPIA – Cooperation between physicians and county mental health is essential in the treatment of men and women suffering from a mental illness.

A bill approved on April 27 by the Washington State Legislature will help ensure that cooperation and improve the care and coordination for mental health patients.

When patients suffering from a mental illness are brought to hospitals, the first person to treat them is often an emergency medicine physician who sees the patient in crisis and makes the initial decision on treatment.

By the time a county agent assesses the patient, the initial treatment may have taken effect, causing the patient to stabilize from the distressed state for which they were admitted.

Senate Bill 5456, sponsored by Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D-Gig Harbor), will require that county mental health agents consult with treating physicians and document any concerns they have regarding patients and the need for detention under the Involuntary Treatment Act.

“When treating someone with a mental illness, every opinion needs to be taken into account, both in the interest of public safety and the patient’s well-being. Barriers between a physician and a county mental health agent can block patients from getting the treatment they need. ” said Schlicher. “When it comes to treatment and public safety, we have standards in place that must be followed.  This bill builds a standardized communication plan for when there is a conflict that threatens those standards.”

The bill passed the House on a 97-0 vote and the Senate of a 43-1 vote.

The bill now moves to the governor’s desk for his signature.

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