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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."

Critics Assail Proposal To Allow Limited Psychiatric Boarding In Washington

National Institute of Mental Health

Mental health advocates in Washington are assailing a proposal to allow psychiatric boarding in limited cases.

Boarding is when mental health patients are held involuntarily in a non-psychiatric setting, like an emergency department. It was a widespread practice in Washington until last year when the Supreme Court ruled boarding illegal.

Since then the state has scrambled to open up more psychiatric beds. But a trio of Washington state Senators has introduced legislation that would allow boarding in cases where all other options have been exhausted.

Republican Senator Steve O’Ban is the prime sponsor.

“We have some who may get released who should not be released because they need treatment or because of public safety issues,” he said.

Helen Nilon advocates for the mentally ill. She testified that boarding is unsafe and unconstitutional.

“It robs an individual of their civil and human rights,” she said.

After the hearing, Senator O’Ban said he would re-work the legislation.