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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."

'Joel's Law' Signed Allowing Families To Petition For Involuntary Commitment

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Doug and Nancy Reuter stand next to Governor Jay Inslee as he signs ''Joel's Law'' named after their son who was killed by police during a psychotic episode in 2013.

It’s been nearly two years since Joel Reuter fired a pistol from his condo balcony and was shot to death by Seattle police. Thursday, Governor Jay Inslee signed “Joel’s Law.”

The law will allow family members of the mentally ill to petition to have their loved ones involuntarily committed.

Standing closest to Governor Inslee as he signed “Joel’s Law” were Doug and Nancy Reuter, Joel’s parents.

“They’ve asked me to sign this bill actually with Joel’s pen which I do so in his honor,” the governor said to applause.

For the last two legislative sessions the Reuters have lobbied Washington lawmakers to give families an option they didn’t have: a chance to go to court and appeal when a designated mental health provider determines a family member does not meet the criteria for involuntary commitment.

After the bill signing Doug Reuter choked up.

“This is an unbelievable day,” he said.

Reuter said he believes this and other mental health laws signed by the governor will save lives.

The ACLU of Washington opposed “Joel’s Law” arguing it could lead to inappropriate decisions to commit someone to a mental hospital.

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."