University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
Title "Pierce County v. Washington"
Date 2017
Author The Bazelon Center
External Link
Abstract Caught in the vicious cycle that’s all too common across the U.S. today, hundreds of people with serious mental illnesses in Pierce County, Washington, have been committed to the hospital for short-term interventions, then discharged to a community with inadequate resources to meet their needs, only to lapse into crisis and be recommitted to the hospital or taken to jail—over and over again. The Bazelon Center’s settlement of a lawsuit promises to break the cycle, and in the process show how it can be done elsewhere.

The suit, filed against the state’s Department of Social and Health Services in February 2005, challenged Western State Hospital’s practice of discharging patients to “unsafe places” such as homeless shelters, indigent hotels, abusive family situations, even the street. For example, a woman with schizoaffective disorder was repeatedly sent—over her community caseworker’s objections—to live in a car with a boyfriend who hospital staff knew had abused her.

This Resource Relates To
case Pierce County v. Washington (MH-WA-0001)

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