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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Supreme Court Grants 120-Day Stay In Psychiatric Boarding Ruling

Washington Supreme Court

The state of Washington now has until the end of the year to stop “boarding” mental health patients in non-psychiatric hospital beds.

The Washington Supreme Court Friday granted a 120-day stay in a ruling that declared the practice of boarding illegal.

It buys the state some breathing room. The Department of Social and Health Services will now have until December 26 to open 145 new psychiatric beds across the state. Governor Jay Inslee has freed up $30 million for the effort. As of late last month, about 200 patients were being boarded in non-psychiatric beds.

Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, from with the Washington State Hospital Association, said after the 120 days there may still be cases where a psychiatric patient is placed in a regular hospital bed because of other medical issues. But she added, “Will they be sitting in an emergency room waiting indefinitely? I don’t think we’ll see that the way we see it now.”

The state of Washington said the 120-day stay was necessary to prevent the release of mentally ill patients who pose a danger to themselves or others. The delay was opposed by the attorney for the psychiatric patients who originally filed suit over the practice of boarding.

The court’s decision to grant the stay was unanimous.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."