Latest from The Spokesman-Review
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.
The bill, prompted by Phillip Paul’s escape from last fall’s “field trip” to the Spokane County Fair by Eastern State Hospital patients, got strong support Monday from legislators and a representative of the mental health community during a hearing in the House Human Services Committee.
“This was a very traumatic event for Spokane County,” said Rep. Matt Shea, R-Greenacres, sponsor of HB 2717.
OLYMPIA — Changing Washington law to allow criminal defendants to be found guilty but mentally ill probably wouldn’t have much effect on the state mental hospital system, a high-ranking state official said Friday.
But it could add significant costs to the Department of Corrections, and taxpayers, said David Weston, the chief of mental health services for the Department of Social and Health Services.
“It could be very expensive,” Weston said in an interview after discussing mentally ill criminals with the House Human Services Committee.
A proposal the Legislature considered earlier this year would have allowed defendants to be found “guilty but mentally ill.” It didn’t pass, but is getting new scrutiny after the escape of Phillip Paul during an Eastern State Hospital “field trip” to the Spokane County Fair last month.
Weston said he believed only a few defendants who are now found not guilty by reason of insanity would be found guilty but mentally ill if the law changed. The change would have a much bigger impact on defendants who have a mental illness and are currently being found guilty.
Not that this is necessarily the best way to get national recognition for a local news story, but Jay Leno included a mention of one of our hottest topics in his Monday night monologue.
With a “How bizarre is this?” lead-in, he mentioned the escape of Phillip Paul at the county fair last week. “Apparently he blended in with the carnival ride operators.”
If you missed it and are dying to see the whole 1-minute bit, it’s at about 6 minutes into this clip. Sorry it’s the whole show from hulu.com, but it didn’t make the monologue highlights on the NBC site.