The Washington State Supreme Court ruled Aug. 7, 2014, that boarding psychiatric patients temporarily in hospital emergency departments and acute care centers because there isn’t space at certified psychiatric treatment facilities is unlawful.
However, the Governor of Washington has elected to delay implementation of the ruling until August 27th in accordance with court rules. A small workgroup of interested parties including Nathan Schlicher, MD, JD, who serves as secretary, treasurer, and legislative chair of Washington ACEP, delegates from the hospital association, and medical associations continue to work with the Governor’s office on a plan to respond to the immediate need that arises on August 27th. (Read more about Washington ACEP’s fight against psychiatric boarding.)
“We are encouraged by the progress that we are making with the state and hope to have a plan for moving forward on funding and physical space in the coming week prior to the deadline,” says Dr. Schlicher. “While we all struggle with management by crisis, we also recognize that more is happening in short order to address the monumental challenges of psychiatric boarding and lack of resources than has been done in the last decade.”
Stay tuned this week as the ruling takes effect and there is potential for patients in real need being discharged from Washington emergency rooms. Washington continues to be a test kitchen for emergency care and the challenges of resource allocation in a difficult economic environment. We will see how they fare.