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Health and Medicine
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 DSHS To Appeal 7-Day Competency Hearings

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Thomas Hawk
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The court battle over wait times for Washington jail inmates to get mental health competency exams is not over.

The state of Washington announced Friday it will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that requires those evaluations within seven days. The Department of Social and Health Services argued a seven-day timeline might be too quick and could result in inmates being found incompetent when they are not mentally ill.

DSHS cites a consultant’s report that found “some defendants who may have appeared incompetent immediately after incarceration appeared competent after a few weeks.”

Washington was sued over excessive wait times.

In a statement, Disability Rights Washington said the solution is for the state to hire more evaluators.

The ACLU of Washington also issued a statement. “We are disappointed,” said La Rond Baker, a staff attorney. “DSHS has already admitted that its wait times for competency services are indefensible. Yet it continues to spend state resources defending an unconstitutional practice.”

The state legislature had previously adopted a new 14-day requirement for competency services, but in April federal Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle ruled that wait times over seven days are unconstitutional.