Governor signs Schlicher mental health treatment bill into law

OLYMPIA — When dealing with a patient suffering the effects of a mental illness, differing opinions and a lack of communication can hinder treatment and harm both the patient and the public. A bill signed on May 21 by Gov. Jay Inslee would knock down those barriers.

Senate Bill 5456, sponsored by Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D-Gig Harbor) requires 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.

Schlicher, an emergency medical physician, says that the first person to order treatment for a person suffering from the effects of a mental illness is often an ER physician.  Often times that treatment causes the patient to stabilize before a county mental health agent can examine them and determine if the patient should be involuntarily committed.

Under Schlicher’s bill, the agent will be required to speak with the attending physician, ensuring that information and concerns are shared and documented, leading to the best possible treatment for the patient.

“When dealing with a mental illness, it does the patient and the public no good to leave gaps in the flow of information, diagnosis and treatment,” said Schlicher.  “Under this bill, we fill in those gaps and make sure that the agents who determine whether a man or woman poses a danger to themselves and others have all the medical data available from the first moment the patient entered the doctor’s care.  This way, the patient gets the help they need and we keep potentially dangerous individuals from being released without treatment.”

The bill passed the House on a 97-0 vote and the Senate on a 43-1 vote.  With the governor’s signature, the bill will take effect on July 28.


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