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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."

Bill Would Allow Families Of Mentally Ill To Petition For Involuntary Treatment

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Doug Reuter
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Joel Reuter was a 28-year old Seattle man who was killed in a standoff with police in 2013 after firing a gun from his balcony.

For the first time, the Washington state Senate has passed a version of “Joel’s Law.”

The bipartisan vote late Wednesday afternoon is a victory for families of the mentally ill. They’ve been lobbying for more options under Washington’s Involuntary Treatment Act.

Joel’s Law is named after Joel Reuter. He was a 28-year old Seattle man who got in a standoff with police in 2013. He fired a gun from his balcony.

Joel’s father, Doug, explained that his son, “[Believed] that the Seattle Police Department were zombies and not police officers at all.”

Police shot and killed Joel in that standoff. For the past two years, Doug Reuter and his wife have lobbied Washington lawmakers to allow families to petition a court to have a loved one involuntarily committed.

“It’s a baby step, but it gives families the hope that they can maybe bypass the designated mental health system,” he said.

Reuter is confident Joel’s Law will become law now that both the Washington House and Senate have passed versions of it.

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."