OLYMPIA — A budget proposal unveiled Wednesday by state House Democrats would put $10 million toward making it easier to involuntarily commit mentally ill residents.
The money would fund 48 new mental-health treatment beds and three new intensive outpatient treatment teams.
It is directly aimed at House Bill 2725, which was pushed by the parents of Joel Reuter, a mentally ill man killed by police last July after firing at officers near his Capitol Hill condo. The parents had tried unsuccessfully to get their son committed for weeks before the incident.
“Joel’s Law” would increase commitments because it would allow people to appeal to a court if county officials decline to involuntarily commit a mentally ill family member.
“We’ve gotta do it,” said House budget writer Ross Hunter, D-Medina. “We’re like last in the country in community mental-health funding. It’s just crazy.”
The proposed funding is part of a larger package that must be reconciled with a smaller plan proposed by the Republican-led state Senate on Monday.
The Senate plan did not fund House Bill 2725 but did add $5 million for 16 new mental-health treatment beds immediately and $5 million for 16 more beds eventually.
Supporters of House Bill 2725 described the House plan as a huge step for a bill that had been seen as a long shot due to its high cost.
“That’s a huge number and that is amazing. It’s just amazing,” said Doug Reuter, Joel’s father, speaking by telephone from Minnesota, where he is working to get a similar bill introduced in that state’s Legislature. “I think it demonstrates and sends a clear message that’s the level of commitment the House has to start doing something about mental health. I think that’s wonderful.”
Senate budget-writer Andy Hill said he hadn’t seen the House proposal but would consider the mental-health funding as part of the budget process. “I have to look at it in total,” said Hill, R-Redmond.
The bill will be heard in Hill’s budget committee Monday.