Washington Supreme Court Affirms Mental Health ‘Boarding’ Unlawful

Aug 7, 2014

The practice of "boarding" mental health patients in hospital emergency rooms is unlawful, the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday.

The justices upheld a lower court ruling in the case of 10 psychiatric patients who were involuntarily detained under state law, then placed in non-psychiatric beds.

Emily Cooper, an attorney with Disability Rights Washington, calls the ruling a victory for severely mentally-ill patients.

“What the court ruled is when folks need mental health treatment, they should get it. And they should not be held in medical facilities where they’re not getting care or treatment and they continue to be a risk to themselves or others without treatment,” she said.

The state of Washington argued in court that the alternative to boarding is to send dangerous mental health patients back into the community. Lawmakers recently funded more mental health beds. But this Supreme Court decision will likely create pressure for even more funding.