The legislature passes a bill to support outpatient competency restoration services guaranteed to individuals in the Trueblood settlement agreement, a move which signals reforms to Washington’s behavioral healthcare system.

“This bill is about reforming how our state treats individuals with mental illness as they interact the criminal justice system,” said Senator Manka Dhingra (D – Redmond), sponsor of Senate Bill 5554. “Our jails do not have the resources to meet the growing demand for mental health services; we’re seeing individuals with severe mental illness sit in jail instead of being diverted out of the criminal justice system to get the behavioral health treatment they need.”

SB 5444 improves the competency evaluation and restoration services system while also emphasizing arrest diversion and community-based support services for people with mental illness.

The bill will also grant statutory authority to forensic navigators, who will be able to assist individuals who are referred for competency to stand trial evaluations. Forensic navigators will also help with those navigating the forensic court process and coordinate community services for individuals who are ordered to receive outpatient competency restoration.

“I have spent this session working to ensure that our state can adequately care for everyone’s behavioral health needs from cradle to retirement. We must continue to move away from a reactive model of care by investing in diversion and intervention programs. This bill is the first step in reform.”

SB 5444 passed both chambers unanimously; it now heads to the Governor’s desk for signature.