Measure would restrict outings for certain mentally-ill patients - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Measure would restrict outings for certain mentally-ill patients

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley speaks in favor of House Bill 2717 (Photo: Washington State House of Representatives) Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley speaks in favor of House Bill 2717 (Photo: Washington State House of Representatives)
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OLYMPIA, Wash. - Sponsors of a new bill aimed at restricting outings for certain mentally ill patients in state custody are hopeful the measure will be considered by state lawmakers in the coming days.

The measure, House Bill 2717, comes after the escape and eventual capture of Eastern State Hospital patient and schizophrenic killer Phillip Paul.

Representatives Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, and Norm Johnson, R-Yakima, testified in Olympia Monday in favor of the bill that would prevent outings, such as Paul's to the Spokane County Fair, from happening in the future.

"Philip Paul was committed to Eastern State Hospital after brutally killing a woman. There was quite a bit of concern in our community that he had escaped at the fair and was within feet of our children. It was a very traumatic event for Spokane County," said Rep. Matt Shea. "This bill would ban these outings, except in very specific circumstances."

Under the bill, a person committed to a state facility for the purpose of determining competency, restoring competency, or as the result of a finding of "not guilty by reason of insanity," would not be allowed to leave the state institution where he or she has been committed, except under certain circumstances.

Those specific circumstances include:

  • Necessary medical or legal proceedings not available in the facility where the person is confined
  • Visits to the bedside of a member of the person's immediate 15 family who is seriously ill
  • Attendance at the funeral of a member of the person's immediate family

The bill also requires that, if an outing is approved under the above circumstances, an escort approved by the Secretary of the Department of Social and Health services must remain in contact with the patient at all times. At no time is the patient allowed to leave the state.

Also stipulated in the bill, law enforcement agencies in the area where the patient would be going must be notified prior to the patient's outing.

Both Shea and Johnson told the House Human Services Committee that the bill is needed for the protection of the public.  

No action has been taken on the bill since its reading in the Public hearing in the House Committee on Human Services Monday, but sponsors are hopeful the measure will be considered within the next several days.

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