Court of Appeals: State responsible for Pierce County long-term mental health patients

The state Court of Appeals Division II has upheld the results of Pierce County’s lawsuit against the State of Washington regarding the provision of long-term mental health inpatient services. The May 28 ruling affirms the validity of the county’s position when officials decided on court action to insure that the state performed the long-term psychiatric services required by law. Now if the state does not admit a Pierce County resident, it must pay for the resident’s care in the community.
“This suit insures that the citizens of Pierce County will receive the long-term inpatient services required of the State Mental Health system without having outpatient funds and services reduced to pay for these services,” said David Dula, the county mental health manager.
The court ruled that the Department of Social and Health Services is financially responsible for long-term care patients. This issue was the primary focus of the original lawsuit filed when Western State Hospital refused to admit patients who had been committed in a timely manner and also refused to pay the cost of keeping the individuals in short term community facilities.
The court not only upheld the position that the state is financially responsible for the patients but also upheld the $949,634 awarded to Pierce County to cover the cost the county incurred caring for patients who had been committed by the courts to WSH but remained in county facilities when they were refused admission to the state hospital.
The court also upheld the $1,082,435 the county was awarded to reimburse the county for the penalties the state charged for “overusing” WSH. The court also awarded pre-judgment interest on this amount. And it vacated Pierce County’s injunction against the state that required the state to admit all Pierce County individuals who were court-committed to WSH immediately.