Governor signs Irwin’s bill expanding the use of tele-medicine under the Involuntary Treatment Act into law

Currently, a behavioral health patient needing an involuntary treatment screening by a designated crisis responder can only receive a screening in-person. A bill sponsored by Rep. Morgan Irwin would add video technology options for patients seeking behavioral health consults. This bill will be particularly useful for the state’s rural hospitals.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2099 into law recently. This bill allows a designated crisis responder (DCR) to conduct a timely civil commitment evaluation through video technology.

“My wife runs the emergency room for a critical access hospital. They have a hard time bringing DCRs out to do timely evaluations. If the DCR is not available, the person is boarded with minimal care. We can use technology as a force multiplier for the DCR workforce,” said Irwin, R-Enumclaw.  “The requirement for a licensed health professional to be present will give a human touch and alleviate concerns about a video evaluation being impersonal. This issue has been of interest for a long time, especially for our rural health care providers.”

In many areas in the state, when a person suffering from a mental health crisis is brought into an emergency room, there are not enough DCRs available to do an involuntary treatment screening. The person remains in the emergency room for a period of time, sometimes days, in restraints, before receiving an evaluation to determine whether a 72-hour detention will take place. Allowing for a video-based interview will provide limited DCR resources an additional option in meeting their obligations.

Irwin’s bill passed the Legislature with unanimous bipartisan support. It will go into effect later this year.

The Legislature adjourned on March 12.


Washington State House Republican Communications