Rep. Michelle Caldier introduces legislation to streamline care for incarcerated mentally ill individuals

Rep. Michelle Caldier has introduced a bill that would streamline communication between jail operators and mental health centers in order to provide the necessary medication for incarcerated mentally ill individuals.

Under House Bill 2501, a software system would be created to enable jail operators to notify mental health centers when mentally ill patients are incarcerated. This would provide for efficient coordination to quickly get patients the medication they need.

A mental health center informed of a patient’s incarceration must communicate information about that patient’s current medications within a 12-hour period. Once the jail operator received that information, they would be required to ensure the patient received the correct type and dosage of medication needed.

“Washington state has a broken mental health care system. We need to ensure all mentally ill individuals who require medication are treated with the care they deserve,” said Caldier, R-Port Orchard. “Poor communication currently exists between our jails and mental health centers, so this is one practical reform that would move us a step forward in taking mental health care seriously as a state.”

Caldier’s bill would require the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to establish a work group to adopt methods and procedures for the communication structure that would be created for jails. There is already a system in place in Washington state to relay information when mental health patients are checked into hospitals.

Four Democrats and two Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. The National Alliance on Mental Illness and the American Civil Liberties Union have also expressed support for the legislation.

House Bill 2501 is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Public Safety Committee on Jan. 27.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov