Since House Bills 1310 and 1054 took effect on July 25, 2021, our offices have received many emails from people who are generally concerned about the repercussions of this legislation. All of their concerns center around one idea: The new laws make us less safe.
For more information on how law enforcement and our senators feel about this legislation, and to read articles about incidents complicated by these laws, click here.
In our constituents’ own words…
“I’m saddened to see the changes related to police reform. I work in downtown Yakima and seem to have 911 on speed dial to help with the never ending stream of homeless people that urinate on our property, spread trash around, ask clients for money and harass employees. To hear police will not be responding unless there is imminent danger is putting all of us in danger. These people have become increasingly hostile and now my only safe way to handle the situation will not be an option. I’m glad we live in a society that now protects criminals and no longer supports law abiding citizens and police officers. Please represent our community and protect our city by continuing to fight for the right changes. We need your voice to be our voice!”
“Hello. I am very concerned about the recent legislation of police reform laws that recently came into effect. I strongly support law enforcement and public safety personnel including fire fighters. I do not believe these recent laws strengthen public safety or the safety of our law enforcement. If there are no changes to these laws, this will result in the Governor having much less support from Washington citizens, guaranteed. I consider myself very liberal and am angered that these law enforcement personnel are not being supported. I am confident we will lose many great officers due to early retirement and relocation, and as a result will make Washington less safe.”
“Time to repeal this law. You are putting first aid responders in grave danger by not having police respond to possibly violent aid calls and clearing the scene before paramedics and fire fighters can render aid. Any first responders that are injured or killed due to this HB, their blood will be on your hands.”
Please forgive my lack of understanding how to write a letter but hear what I am about to point out, share and ask of our state to consider, it is so important to consider and act on with the utmost urgency. This is a request that you consider throwing a life line for those with mental health illness and those who love them and care for them, as well as those who are called to assist them. Which the new law that was passed has not done and has fail us all in this case.
I am writing in regards to the new law that has changed how a person with mental health illness is dealt with, specifically during A mobile crisis, DCR and law enforcement when it is determined a ITA has been given.
My adult son, who has been living at home is who I am referring to and our experience before and after the law has changed. Prior to the law changing we, even my son knew how things went if I called.
We moved from another area a year and a half ago where my son had been hospitalized 3 times. We had a very wonderful and outstanding with all who were involved and always without incident. This included but not limited to mobile crisis, law enforcement, DCR and the hospital. I am forever grateful to these people, here as well.
Since then we moved here. My son has not had to be hospitalized for over a year since our move. His Doctor recently discovered he is extremely vit D deficient which can cause schizophrenia. It is difficult to get him to take anything when he is having a break. He believes he is being poisoned and refuses. He won’t eat or drink anything I give him. It gets worse. I am not going to go into this, only to say my son had reached the threshold where I knew it was time to call. Under normal circumstances he would have gone to the hospital without incident, but we now have serious and ridiculous problems this new irresponsible law has brought about. Creating potential for trauma, escalation with a potential for physical harm of everyone, a needless criminal record that could have been prevented, financial hardship and possibly more homelessness amongst other things.
Our experience since the law passed.
It was a given if mobile crisis and law enforcement came to assess a ITA would be placed and my son would be taken to the hospital. Because of the new law, regardless there was a ITA placed by DCR, law enforcement had to walk away because this is how their superior understood it. My son said he didn’t want to go and played possum so everyone had to leave. Even though he previously showed ever sign to mobile crisis to get a ITA hold from DCR.
They left and things escalated. I never had seen my son like this. He needed help. This was a whole other level within a short time and again I had never had to go this long without intervention. He was always in the hospital by now getting a bed in a mental hospital.
He was all over the place. He was catatonic and after hurt himself, hurt me. I called the sheriff’s office again a few hours later. They arrested him on a d.v. charge. He went to jail. I contacted the jail asked for them to have DCR come to see him before release and I applied for Joel’s law which I thought was more like guardianship.
My son was doing better. A little over a year. He’s been doing handyman work. Despite his mental health illness he has been working to pay child support since moving here. He’s been actively involved and attended family and scholastic functions involving his son who played sports, won many awards. He is extremely proud of his son and ashamed of his mental illness. Now he has this charge that I know could have been prevented! We have never had to go this far without help.
This new law puts everyone at risk, the patient, the law enforcement, the mobile crisis, DCR, the jail, family… everyone! Who knows what could happen and it creates more problems. It needs to go back to what it was, amended to what it was. This is not supposed to be happening. This is not what helps anyone that is in crisis or assisting crisis.
I have written everyone possible. Even contacted Congress. Please help.
I’m also asking that there is a amendment made, that if there is a first time criminal charge that could have been prevented by honoring the ITA, like in this case with my son, that due to mental health and the charge would have been preventable had the ITA been honored that the charge be dropped. This is a first time incident because he was not taken in when we, family, mobile crisis, DCR, law enforcement all agreed and not one person appreciated this new law especially in cases like this one. With a criminal charge he could lose his housing opportunity, he be on the streets, this wasn’t necessary and was preventable had he gone in as usual. This has NEVER happened before.
It is not the people but this law I am concerned about. It must change. It is making our lives worse and prevents when help is needed.
I wanted to share a story with you about my night at work this week. We had a mentally unstable patient check into Urgent Care, he was incomprehensible and erratic in his speech and behaviors. He was placed in the triage room for me to go see, to determine our ability to treat him in urgent care, vs send to ED for higher level of care. I was immediately uncomfortable being in a small exam room with this patient. He was extremely agitated and I could not understand him, or what he needed. As an emergency department nurse then nurse practitioner in the Emergency and urgent care settings you learn to identify people that have potential to be dangerous. And this was one of those times. I asked for a staff member to have security come stand by while I did my triage. Unfortunately, security was not there that night, due to illness in the security department. I then asked to have the police called for a stand by while I did my job, in the event this escalated, as I was about to tell him he was not going to be able to be treated in Urgent care and rather needed to be seen in ER. My charge nurse called the police and asked for a stand by, which has been done in my professional career regularly, especially in smaller ERs that don’t have their own security guards. An officer called me back and informed me that because of new police reform laws, he was unable to come in and stand by the room while I did my triage. He stated that until the person commits a crime he cannot come in the building. I responded by saying, “Oh, so when he does punch me in the face, then you can enter and help me?” He answered “yes.” He also told me they are not allowed to do come on “mental health calls” any longer. I then had to proceed with my triage without any support and just hope I didn’t get hurt. Luckily, there was no incident, however, this made me feel really unsafe in my job and very vulnerable. Nurses and providers in all medical settings, but especially the ER and urgent care, have always been able to depend on officers coming and just standing by , in case of an escalation. I don’t want myself or staff to get harmed by a mentally unstable or violent patient, which we can encounter any day at work. If we get harmed, then we cannot help the rest of the people that are seeking care.
The police need to be able to freely respond to medical facilities before a crime is committed to protect health care workers from potential danger. All they do is stand outside the room and be there. Most of the time just the presence of law enforcement in the parking lot or the lobby is enough to thwart bad behaviors in the medical settings. This law is putting the upper hand with those with bad behavior or bad intentions. It is unacceptable to put medical caregivers at risk for harm in this manner. I ask that you do what you can to help change this law to protect medical providers and staff.
Thanks for considering the medical community and this new law’s impact on us!