Prolific offenders struggling with mental illness would receive help under O’ban’s CARE Act

Jan 31, 2020

OLYMPIA…People whose severe mental illness leads them to be prolific criminal offenders and prevents them from consenting to receive treatment could soon benefit from a bill sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County.

Senate Bill 6109 would allow courts to assign an executor to make care decisions for people whose mental illness makes them incapable of recognizing their need for help. The court-appointed representative would only be assigned when someone has been referred for involuntary commitment eight times in two years, making them a repeat offender with a high risk of reoffending and putting the public in danger.

SB 6109 will be heard by the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee today at 1:30 p.m. Several mental-health providers and family members of individuals who would have received care under  a bill of this kind will testify in support of it. If SB 6109 is passed out of committee, it could be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.

“People should have the right to decide for themselves if they want mental-health treatment, but some individuals’ judgment is so clouded by their mental illness that they need someone more objective to step in and facilitate real help on their behalf,” said O’Ban. “Families are devastated by their loved ones’ dangerous and irrational behavior, and they feel helpless. They just want someone to take their child, brother, sister, or parent off the street and put them on a better path. They are desperate.”

Many among our homeless population languish in homeless encampments with little to no hope of improving their lives. Sometimes their families only know they are alive because authorities contact the families after making an arrest.

Often, mentally ill repeat offenders also lack the ability to remain in temporary housing, complete job training or hold a job. And they are more likely to have substance-abuse disorder.

“The combination of mental illness and drug or alcohol use can be deadly for the user and the public. One might think it is cruel to force someone to undergo treatment without their consent, but it is far crueler to let their mental illness endanger their lives and public safety. We must give courts, mental-health providers and families more effective tools for saving their loved ones.”