Background: Joel’s Law
is named after Joel Reuter. According to testimony of the family, Joel was suicidal when Seattle police shot and killed him in 2013. He had severe mental illness, and had been released
from a hospital weeks earlier without mandatory follow-up treatment. The family firmly believes that there would have been a different outcome if their son had received timely
Before Joel’s Law was enacted, involuntary civil commitments could only be initiated by a designated mental health professional (DMHP). A DMHP may detain a person if the DMHP determines that the person, as the result of a mental disorder, presents a likelihood of serious harm, or is gravely disabled. (Those terms are defined below). DMHP’s do not detain all persons with whom they come in contact. Family and other interested persons sometimes disagree with the judgement of the DMHP.
Process: Under Joel’s Law, an immediate family member, guardian, or conservator of a person may petition superior court for review of a DMHP decision to not detain a person for evaluation and treatment, or to not take action within 48 hours of a request for investigation. The petition must be submitted on forms developed by the courts and contain a sworn declaration from the petitioner (and other witnesses, if desired). The court must review the petition to determine whether it raises sufficient evidence to support the allegation. If there is not sufficient evidence, the petition will be dismissed. If the court finds sufficient evidence, it will provide a copy of the petition to the DMHP and order the DMHP to provide the court and the petitioner with a written response within one judicial day.
Once the court receives the response from the DMHP, the court will review all availalble information. If the court finds there is probable cause to support initial detention, and that the person has refused to accept evaluation and treatment voluntarily, the court may enter an order for initial detention. The court must issue a final ruling on the petition within five judicial days after it is filed. The DMHP must execute the order without delay.
Definitions: “Likelihood of serious harm” means a substantial risk that the person will inflict serious harm on self or others as evidenced by behavior which has caused such harm or places another person in reasonable fear of sustaining such harm. “Gravely disabled” means that the person is in danger of serious physical harm based upon a failure to provide for their essential human needs of health or safety, or manifests severe deterioration in routine functioning and is not receiving care that is essential for health or safety.
The above description of Joel’s Law is a summary only. The text of Joel’s Law can be found HERE.
CLICK HERE the forms and instructions for initiating petitions under Joels’ Law.
Superior Court Administration
Benton County Justice Center
7122 W Okanogan Pl
Kennewick, WA 99336
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