In 2012, recent amendments to Washington State’s Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA) will take effect. New legal guidelines will allow a designated investigator to more fully consider information from both credible witnesses and historical records when making commitment decisions. The 2010 Legislature directed the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (Institute) to estimate the number of additional psychiatric admissions that may occur as a result of this law and examine how many inpatient psychiatric beds may be necessary to accommodate this increase. These estimates were presented in a companion to this report (completed in July 2011).
This report outlines various approaches for addressing the projected increase in psychiatric admissions. First, we discuss options for developing additional capacity within the state’s inpatient psychiatric system. Next, we highlight both programmatic and statutory alternatives that may help prevent (or divert) future psychiatric admissions. This section also summarizes laws from four different states that provide for alternatives to involuntary inpatient admissions. Finally, this report examines the relationship between ITA-related psychiatric admissions and utilization of both county jails and hospital emergency departments.