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Hargrove bill to change mental-health commitments passes

March 5th, 2013 - 6:22am

(Olympia) -- Local state senator Jim Hargrove's bill to close gaps in Washington's involuntary commitment process for the mentally ill has passed the Senate.

If a suspect in a violent crime is declared incompetent to stand trial, yet does not meet the standards for civil commitment, they can be released without getting the treatment they need and creating the possibility that they may commit more violent acts. Under SB 5176, more case-by-case reviews and evaluations would determine if an offender declared criminally incompetent should be held for treatment rather than released. Hoquiam Sen. Jim Hargrove says such cases don't happen often, but even a few instance are too many. His bill helps the Legislature keep up with its most important responsibility: to keep the public safe.

"So this would close these very few gap cases where we have a murder occurred, but they're not competent to stand trial and because of the way our involuntary commitment process works, they might potentially be released. Then we would have to start the involuntary commitment process, all be it a dangerous person is on the street," said Hargrove.

Under 5176, the suspect will instead be held for 72 hours of evaluation, after which time they may be committed for treatment. This bill is one of four mental health measures proposed by Senate Democrats to reduce and prevent violence. It received unanimous approval in the Senate and now moves to the House.

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