OLYMPIA – A police officer responding to an attempted suicide could recommend a mental health professional quickly contact and offer help to the person who tried to commit suicide, under a bill that received near unanimous support in the Washington House of Representatives on Tuesday.
“This would make sure mental health emergencies are dealt with by mental health professionals,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, the bill’s sponsor.
It is the second piece of legislation prompted by a murder-suicide at Deaconess Hospital in 2014. In that incident, Chris Henderson, who had been evaluated as a possible suicide threat, was released from custody by Spokane Valley officers, retrieved his guns from the Spokane Police Department and went to the hospital where his wife worked. He shot and killed Sheena Henderson before killing himself.
The bill is called Sheena and Chris Henderson’s Law. The Henderson family wanted something good to come from the tragedy, Riccelli said.
It would help fix the state’s broken health care system and empower police to help people get the help they need, said Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane.
Last year, a broader version of the bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate. There were concerns about requirements for listing the suicide attempt in police incident reports, as well as for police departments to develop a system to refer people to mental health agencies based on information in the reports. The Senate rewrote the bill to make notification voluntary, but didn’t vote on the proposal before time ran out in the 2015 session; that meant the bill came back to the House, where it passed Tuesday 95-2.
Another bill from the 2014 tragedy passed both houses last year and was signed into law. It requires worried family members to be notified if seized firearms are returned to a person involved in domestic violence or other criminal activities or after an examination for mental illness.