Court ruling calls for improvements to long-term mental health care

July 14, 2016

Last Friday, frustrated Pierce County Supervisor Court Commissioner Craig Adams issued a historic court opinion, ordering the state to start work immediately to improve the long-term mental health system and the capacity of Western State Hospital. The commissioner’s ruling does not just sound the alarm bell; it requires specific steps be taken. It also directs WSHA to be a partner in selecting a special master to oversee compliance with the court’s order.

Commissioner Adams was responding to the cases of multiple patients who were referred by the courts to Western State for involuntary acute long-term psychiatric treatment, but who were turned away because the hospital does not have the capacity for more patients. Throughout the ruling, the commissioner holds that the state cannot simply turn patients away from long-term psychiatric care at Western State, which it has been doing for 35 years. The court compares the system to a relay team that is individually and collectively dysfunctional.

“In these cases, the same issues and the same excuses for declining to accept patients survive to this day. There are no new reasons… to excuse the duty of Western State Hospital to accept those ordered into its care.”

Mental health has been a top priority for WSHA members for years. In addition to increasing the psychiatric care capacity available in community hospitals across the state, we have:

While it’s unfortunate that the court had to take the dramatic step of directing state action, it’s clear a significant push was needed. WSHA supports the court’s attention to improving discharge planning and expanding placement options, including supportive housing, step-down programs and appropriate care for dementia patients. WSHA will continue to work with all parties to better meet the needs of people who are in psychiatric crisis.


Cassie Sauer

Executive Vice President, WSHA

 Zosia Stanley

Policy Director, Access, WSHA


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