County receives $1.8 million mental health settlement

Pierce County has received a check for $1.8 million from a lawsuit won against Washington State and will soon receive over $200,000 more.

In a written decision signed on Jan. 20, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Paula Casey ruled in the county’s favor in a lawsuit that argued the state had the obligation to admit patients who were committed to Western State Hospital, but were instead forced to remain at Puget Sound Behavioral Health.

Casey ruled the State must take responsibility for patients committed to Western State Hospital for 90 or 180 days by the Pierce County Superior Court. If WSH did not take the patients, then the State is responsible for payment for their care. The judge most recently ruled that Pierce County Regional Support Network will be paid retroactively for their care at PSBH.

Judge Casey also ruled the State has no authority to levy “liquidated damages” against Pierce County for allowing too many court-ordered mental health patients from the county into Western State Hospital. The judge ordered the liquidated damages be refunded to the RSN with interest and put in a special fund to be used for “more or new services”. With the $1.8 million check delivered, the RSN will now be required to develop a plan for the use of the funds.

“The check in hand is nice, but the real victory is what we have gained for our consumers,” said Fran Lewis, Pierce County Human Services Director. “I am proud that we had the courage to take on this fight. As in other instances, Pierce County RSN has led the way and although these rulings were only for Pierce County, I believe other RSNs will benefit in time as well.”