Washington’s expansion of behavioral health services is a boost for mental health and retail crime prevention

Jun 13, 2024
Written by WR Communications

Washington has made significant strides in behavioral health care, nearing compliance with the Trueblood settlement, a 2015 federal court decision requiring timely competency evaluation and restoration services for defendants. Historically, the state’s mental health crisis led to prolonged jail waits and hefty fines due to insufficient care capacity. However, recent efforts have reduced wait times for psychiatric hospital admission to under seven days, aligning with court mandates.

Key to this progress is Governor Jay Inslee’s behavioral health transformation plan, which has increased provider rates, added staff, and introduced new diversion opportunities. The state’s rapid expansion included reopening Olympic Heritage Behavioral Health, adding 72 new beds, with further expansions at Maple Lane, Western State Hospital, and Eastern State Hospital contributing an additional 292 beds. The recent inauguration of the University of Washington Center for Behavioral Health and Learning further enhances capacity with 150 beds and a focus on training future professionals.

By year-end, Washington will have opened approximately 600 new beds since 2022, addressing the surge in competency service court orders. Complementary legislation has introduced diversion programs and interventions for defendants awaiting competency services, stabilizing demand.

WR applauds these efforts, recognizing that addressing mental health needs not only supports vulnerable individuals but also helps mitigate organized retail crime (ORC) by reducing the entry of individuals with untreated behavioral health issues into the criminal justice system. WR views these advancements as pivotal in creating a safer and more supportive community environment.

Read more: “Wait times decrease for WA mental health patients, but gains are ‘fragile’” 


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