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Designated Crisis Responders and Ricky's Law: Involuntary Treatment Investigation, Decision, and Placement

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Devin Bales, Anthony Ellis, Elizabeth Drake, Marna Miller - June 2021

Before 2016, two separate systems existed for the involuntary commitment of individuals in crisis due to mental health (MH) or substance use disorders (SUD). The 2016 Legislature passed E3SHB 1713—called “Ricky's Law”—to integrate both conditions into Washington’s existing Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA). The legislation required the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to evaluate the changes resulting from Ricky’s Law.

As part of the integration, Ricky’s Law (1) created the designated crisis responders (DCRs)—a single professional designation responsible for conducting all ITA investigations, both MH and SUD, and (2) established Secure Withdrawal Management and Stabilization (SWMS) facilities. WSIPP interviewed DCRs from across the state to learn about their experience when determining whether to detain people under Ricky’s Law and whether to place people in SWMS facilities.

This report—the second in a series of three— provides an in-depth look at the integrated ITA detention and placement processes from the DCR perspective. We present themes from interviews conducted with DCR managers and DCRs throughout Washington. The interviews provide an understanding of the mechanisms that may affect outcomes, provide an on-the-ground perspective of the implementation and ongoing application of Ricky’s Law, and inform our approach for the third report.

Report ID: 21-06-3401

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Devin Bales
Julia Cramer
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Michael Hirsch
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