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Washington Supreme Court Outlaws Mental Health 'Boarding'

File photo of the Temple of Justice in Olympia, Washington.

File photo of the Temple of Justice in Olympia, Washington.

Wikimedia, Cacophony

The Washington Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that the practice of “boarding” mental health patients in hospital emergency rooms is unlawful.

The justices upheld a lower court ruling in the case of 10 psychiatric patients. They were involuntarily detained under state law and then placed in non-psychiatric beds.

Emily Cooper, an attorney with Disability Rights Washington, called the ruling a victory for severely mentally ill patients.

“What the court ruled is when folks need mental health treatment they should get it,” she said. “And they should not be held in medical facilities where they’re not getting care or treatment and they continue to be a risk to themselves or others without treatment.”

The state of Washington argued in court that the alternative to boarding is to send dangerous mental health patients back into the community.

Lawmakers recently funded more mental health beds. But this Supreme Court decision will likely create pressure for even more funding.

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