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Sunday, March 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mental health bill gets Washington Gov. Inslee’s signature

OLYMPIA – Family members will be able to ask a court to order temporary psychiatric treatment for a relative they fear isn’t getting needed help under Joel’s Law, one of a series of changes to state mental health law signed Thursday.

Gov. Jay Inslee was flanked during the signing by the parents of Joel Reuter, the bill’s namesake, who was killed in a 2013 standoff with Seattle police just a week after being detained, examined and ultimately released without treatment by mental health professionals. Family and friends feared he was suicidal, but state law didn’t allow them to seek a commitment after mental health professionals declined one, Doug Reuter said.

Now they will have a way to seek treatment by going to a Superior Court judge and asking for a court order for an initial commitment.

Had something like Joel’s Law been in place two years ago, their son’s mental illness could have been properly evaluated, treated with daily medication and he could be alive today, Doug Reuter said.

Other laws signed Thursday include:

• Allowing involuntary treatment to include less restrictive alternatives to an inpatient setting.

• Requiring many health professionals to receive training in suicide assessment, treatment and management.

• Requiring the state Department of Social and Health Services to set up regional networks of evaluation and treatment services, with strict time limits, for mental health patients being held under the involuntary treatment laws. The state is under a court order to improve conditions and cut wait times for people who have been taken into police custody and are suspected of mental health problems but have refused voluntary treatment.

“They’re going to save dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of lives,” Doug Reuter said.

He and his wife, Nancy, said they spent two years working to get Joel’s Law passed. He said that’s relatively fast to make “this great of a leap in mental health treatment.” Nancy Reuter said passing the bill was harder than she thought, “but we ended up with a better bill” as it went through the legislative process.

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