House passes Klippert bill to change threshold for involuntary treatment

 

The state House of Representatives approved legislation Tuesday that would allow crisis responders additional discretion to authorize detainment of individuals who present a threat of causing harm to themselves or others.

The bill would update the state's Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA), which specifies the procedures and requirements that must be followed before someone can be ordered into treatment.

House Bill 2882, sponsored by 8th District Rep. Brad Klippert, would change the standard for 72-hour emergency detention from “imminent likelihood” of serious harm or danger to “substantial likelihood.”

Klippert said reducing the burden of proof could place potentially dangerous individuals in custody and under care so their condition can be stabilized.

In his floor remarks, he called the proposal an important step toward increasing public safety, and potentially one that could avert a tragedy.

“During a work session last October in the Human Services Committee, we heard from a leader in the behavioral science community who told us that at the time of the killings on the campus of Virginia Tech, that state's lawmakers were considering a bill that would have made the same change we're proposing in House Bill 2882 — changing 'imminent likelihood' to 'substantial likelihood,'” Klippert said, adding that if the Virginia Legislature had made the revision in time, the April 16, 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech might have been prevented.

During separate attacks, the killer murdered 32 people that day, and wounded many others before committing suicide.

“They knew there was a substantial likelihood that the perpetrator was going to hurt himself or someone else, but because their involuntary treatment law at the time said 'imminent likelihood,'not 'substantial likelihood,' no one could substantiate why that man should have been taken into protective custody for up to 72 hours to ensure his safety and the safety of others,” Klippert said.

Shortly after the campus tragedy, the state of Virginia quickly changed the law.

“The gentleman who testified before the Human Services Committee said it would be a great idea to make the people of Washington safer by doing the exact same thing,” said Klippert. “This bill is strongly supported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness Washington, and they'd also like to see this legislation passed.”

During final debate, Klippert drew bipartisan praise for his work in sponsoring the proposal and working it through the process. The House responded by approving the measure unanimously. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 2882 is one of several measures Klippert sponsored or co-sponsored this year addressing law enforcement and public safety issues. Many of his proposals were introduced in honor of the six law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty during the latter months of 2009.

For more information, contact: Bill Taylor, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7074

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov