Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Do state laws place mental health professionals in danger?

Washington State trains county designated mental health professionals to assess whether a person with severe mental illness who is in crisis is also a danger to self or others. If so, the person might qualify for a 72-hour hold and evaluation to determine if hospitalization is needed.

Marty Smith responded to one such crisis and lost his life to a dangerous patient. Now state legislators are considering the “Marty Smith” bill to recognize him and to help improve safety for mental health professionals. While elected officials debate this bill, we also need to ask them some hard questions:

Why do mental health professionals have to wait until a patient deteriorates to a point of dangerousness before they can help?

Why do county designated mental health professionals and judges not use the state treatment law and intervene for people who are “gravely disabled” ?

Why does the state fail to make use of its “less restrictive alternative” provision to provide mandated treatment in the community instead of hospitals?

41 other states let families directly petition a court to get treatment for a loved one in crisis. Why does Washington State require county designated mental health professionals to be the “middle man” in their process?

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