In 2010, the Washington State Legislature amended the legal guidelines for Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA) commitments to allow a Designated Mental Health Professional (DMHP) to more fully consider reasonably available information about individuals from credible witnesses and historical records (RCW 71.05.212). These statutory changes will take effect in 2012. The Legislature directed the Institute to assess the potential impact of these changes.
This paper discusses trends in both the utilization of inpatient psychiatric treatment beds and changes in the capacity of these facilities to admit patients. To assess potential increases in psychiatric admissions as a result of this law, we conducted a survey that asked DMHPs to review ITA cases during a one-week period in 2010. Based on this survey, we estimate that the commitment rate could increase from 40 percent to between 45 and 55 percent of all investigations as a result of the statutory changes. Between 42 and 168 additional psychiatric beds (above current capacity) would be necessary to accommodate this growth in admissions.