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Washington’s first residential treatment facility for mentally ill defendants opens

The treatment center will relocate 16 patients at Western State Hospital who are taking beds for mentally ill inmates sitting in jails across the state.

CENTRALIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee and DSHS Secretary Jilma Meneses were among the state officials who opened the Civil Center for Behavioral Health at Maple Lane on Friday with a ribbon cutting ceremony in Centralia.

This is the state’s first treatment center located in a community setting to treat people who’ve been charged with a crime but had the charges dropped after being found incompetent to stand trial. Instead of getting released, this population has been ordered by a judge to undergo what’s called civil commitment until they’re deemed safe to go back into the community.

Prior to this facility, civilly committed patients were ordered to stay at a state-run psychiatric hospital, such as the immense Western State Hospital in Steilacoom. Inslee said the center at Maple Lane aligns with the state’s goal set in 2018 of de-centralizing these services from huge hospital settings and instead treating people in their communities.

“I could not be more excited about what this represents, which is one of the first steps in the transformation of how we provide mental health to our families and our communities,” said Gov. Inslee at the ceremony.

The center will operate around the clock for 16 people at a time. The first patients will be transferred from Western State Hospital next month.

One of the goals in opening the facility is to help alleviate the current crisis, brought to light by the KING 5 Investigation "Mentally Ill, Waiting in Jail," of a record number of mentally ill inmates waiting in jails across the state for a bed at Western or Eastern State Hospital. These are defendants who don’t understand the charges against them and need treatment to restore competency to stand trial.

Approximately 870 people are waiting for competency services without treatment or the ability to move forward in the criminal justice system. Some inmates are waiting up to 10 months and longer, which is in violation of state law and federal and superior court orders.

“This (new treatment center) will help that problem because it will allow more beds to be available for those people who need competency to be restored. So it’s not just for the civil side, it’s not just for our neighbors who have a problem, but it also relieves the pressure on people who are on the (criminal) side of the situation.

The Civil Center for Behavioral Health cost $20.2 million and includes a host of state-of-the-art features including solar power, natural daylight throughout, native landscaping that doesn’t require irrigation and enclosed outdoor spaces.

In addition to this facility, DSHS is working to open more new beds to meet the growing demand:

  • 58 new beds at Western State Hospital, to open in 2023
  • 30 additional beds on the Maple Lane campus for people found not guilty by reason of insanity, to open in 2023
  • 48 beds in Clark County near Vancouver scheduled to open in 2024

“Our deeply held value is to provide person-centered care, recognizing the humanity in all of our patients, and we will use this approach in all aspects of patient care,” said DSHS Sec. Meneses.

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