State officials praised the settlement and dismissal this month of a 12-year-old federal lawsuit that challenged inpatient care at Western State Hospital and community services for people with developmental disabilities.
The state says the agreement has resulted in higher quality services for people with disabilities and mental illness.
Sharon Allen, et al. v. Western State Hospital, et al. was filed in 1997 by the then Washington Protection and Advocacy System (now named Disability Rights of Washington) and included partial settlements in February 2006 and in April 2007.
The 2006 agreement called for DSHS to hold the census of the Habilitative Mental Health unit at Western to no more than 30 patients. In 2007, the federal court approved another agreement that called for DSHS to establish a quality assurance process for class members residing in the community. On July 1, 2009, following a period of external review and monitoring, the suit was dismissed without prejudice.
Richard Kellogg, director of Mental Health Systems for DSHS and the executive who supervises the state psychiatric hospitals, said the policies and programs implemented through the settlement establish Washington state as a national leader in caring for individuals dually diagnosed with developmental disabilities and mental illness.
“The accomplishments are vast and go well beyond ending a lawsuit,” Kellogg said.
Linda Rolfe, Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities, and David Weston, Chief of the Mental Health Services Office, co-chair a Cross Systems Committee that supervises the DSHS work plan. They credited the state’s Regional Support Networks, community mental health providers, and DSHS regional staff with support that helped achieve the settlement.
“We strongly believe that with the continued assistance and support of these groups around the state, Washington can continue to be a national leader,” Weston said.
“DSHS has a strong commitment to maintaining and improving the programs and services we have established to support these individuals,” Rolfe said.
Among the key points of the settlement:
- Significant improvements in the collaboration between DDD service providers, community mental health providers and with other community partners.
- Major improvements in access to mental health care and in the overall quality of care to those individuals in need of both systems of care.
- Development of a community infrastructure that most often is able to support individuals in the community who have significant and complex needs.
- Development of regional quality assurance reviews for class members living in the community, to insure appropriate care.
- The lower census of 30 or less at the Habilitative Mental Health unit resulted in more effective therapy and low recidivism rates. (Approximately 130 individuals with development disabilities resided at WSH at the time the suit was filed.)
- Western and Eastern State hospitals’ Habilitative Mental Health units are now considered among the top inpatient programs in the country in working with this population.