mental health

Austin Jenkins / NW News Network

A Washington state senator who says he’s heard from “literally hundreds of parents” of adult children who are struggling with mental illness or addiction wants to allow families to petition for temporary guardianship.

Austin Jenkins

On a recent evening in Vancouver, Washington, more than 80 people gathered at the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They were there for a forum organized by a fledging group of moms whose severely mentally ill children have struggled to get the help they need in Washington state — sometimes with deadly consequences.

“We are all part of a tribe that we have joined whether we wanted to or not,” mother Jerri Clark told the packed room.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network






Washington state’s largest psychiatric hospital is no longer in immediate jeopardy of losing federal funding.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Federal inspectors have found serious safety violations at Western State Hospital that could increase the chances of patient suicides. The finding this week has the potential to further imperil $65 million in annual federal funding the state receives to operate the 857-bed psychiatric hospital near Tacoma.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

One night about a year ago, the lights in Brian's Tacoma apartment suddenly went out. He was in his bedroom. When he walked out to see what had happened, he said he found his adult daughter who lived with him had stuck a bread knife into an electrical outlet.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

For the last several years, Washington state lawmakers have been working on a response to a state Supreme Court order to fully fund schools. Now they’re signaling a shift to the next big challenge: mental health.

At a news conference Friday at Western State Hospital, Republican state Sen. Steve O’Ban framed Washington’s mental health crisis this way:

“I kind of think of this as, this is a bad analogy perhaps, but McCleary Two,” he said.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Joel’s Law allows families in Washington state to petition a court to involuntarily commit a mentally ill loved one. In Pierce County, home to Tacoma, nearly 100 percent of petitions are granted, but in Seattle’s King County, most are rejected.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

In the living room of her Olympia home, Crystal opens up a large file box that contains her son’s life history.

“As a mom you keep those shot records and those test scores in their little file even if they’re in their 20s,” said Crystal, whose last name we’re not using to protect her son's identity.

But this plastic box has something else: a detailed record of her son’s battle with addiction and mental illness beginning when he was 12.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

On a recent Wednesday morning, Denise Vermillion stood outside the Thurston County Courthouse and expressed the frustration that had been building inside her for days.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Efforts to turnaround Washington’s troubled Western State Hospital are taking longer than expected. The federal government this week granted yet another extension to give the state’s largest mental hospital more time to fix systemic problems.

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