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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Commissioner orders oversight of Western State Hospital admissions

Associated Press

TACOMA – A Pierce County court commissioner has ordered the state to appoint an expert to oversee changes in admissions policies at Washington’s largest psychiatric hospital.

Commissioner Craig Adams’ ruling Friday also called for the state to adopt a goal of ending “psychiatric boarding” – warehousing mentally ill people in hospitals or jails – within six months.

The ruling also tells the state to adopt new policies for admitting long-term patients to Western State Hospital in Lakewood, the News-Tribune reported.

Officials with the Department of Social and Health Services said they must review the order before responding.

The opinion is the latest salvo in a long-running dispute over admissions policies at Western State. Last month, Adams ordered the hospital’s CEO jailed if she did not admit a patient who was wait-listed for admission. A Superior Court judge later voided the order against CEO Cheryl Strange.

At issue are the often long waits people with mental illness must endure before being admitted to the hospital.

Adams has ruled repeatedly since 2013 that those waits violate the constitutional rights of the waiting patients, many of them housed without adequate treatment at general hospitals, jails or other facilities.

The state has argued it has neither the staff nor the beds to accommodate all the patients ordered to treatment at Western State.

Adams said the state is not doing enough to address the problem.

His plan requires the appointment within 30 days of a qualified expert to serve as special master. That person would work with the state and other involved parties to comply with the court’s order.

The state also must “design and implement an objectively based triage system” to better classify waiting patients and to work to make room for the most acutely ill at Western State.

“Western State Hospital shall report every 60 days to the special master and to the court on the progress toward reaching the goal and what impediments, if any, exist,” Adams wrote.

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