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Wa Lege Day 31: Patient field trips limited

OLYMPIA -- Patients at state mental hospitals who have been judged criminally insane would be severely restricted from taking trips away from their facilities under a bill passed unanimously by the House of Representatives.

HB 2717, inspired by the escape of Phillip Paul during an Eastern State Hospital field trip to the Spokane County fair, says such patients would need a court order for any trip that isn't needed for medical treatment, to attend the funeral of an immediate family member or to visit a terminally ill family member. When away from the facility, they would need to be under the direct supervision of a hospital staff member.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, said the bill is designed both to reassure the public that escapes like Paul's won't happen again and to send a clear message to the Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees Eastern.

"This measure codifies some of the governor's recommendations and effectively bans such outings with exception of very specific and defined services," Shea siad.

The bill passed 97-0. It now moves to the Senate.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.