WSHA files friend of the court brief regarding hospital behavioral health services to support members; receives favorable outcome

November 20, 2018

This past March, in an action to support its members, WSHA weighed in on a court case involving appropriate services for patients needing long-term, intensive behavioral health services. WSHA argued that hospitals should have an independent voice before the courts about whether a hospital is able to provide the appropriate level of care required by a patient needing long-term behavioral health care, including whether the patient would be more appropriately cared for in another setting. In this case, the question was about a hospital’s conclusion that its behavioral health treatment was not meeting the needs of a patient and that the patient would be better cared for at Western State Hospital.

At the trial court, the King County Prosecutor’s office argued that the hospital did not have standing, and only the Prosecutor’s office should have the authority to seek a court order for a civil commitment, including representing whether the patient’s care needs were being adequately addressed in a community hospital.

In its brief, WSHA highlighted that hospitals have an important and unique perspective regarding patient care and should have an independent voice before the court in civil commitment hearings. A county prosecutor is not able to determine whether a hospital can meet the treatment needs of a patient.

The appellate court, focusing on the procedural and standing issues of this specific case, decided to dismiss the appeal because, while the trial court granted the commitment order, the patient was never transferred to Western. Therefore, the patient had not been “aggrieved” and there was no basis for appeal.

In dismissing the appeal, the appellate court did not take up the prosecutor’s argument, resulting in a favorable outcome for hospitals.


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