Governor signs ‘Joel’s Law’ allowing families to ask judge to commit suicidal, dangerous relatives
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a law that will allow family members to ask a judge to step in if a mental health professional will not involuntarily commit a relative they believe could be suicidal or a danger to others.
Inslee signed “Joel’s Law” joined by Doug and Nancy Reuter, the parents of the man for whom the measure was named. Joel Reuter was suicidal when Seattle police shot and killed him during a standoff in 2013.
The couple testified in support of the measure earlier this year, telling lawmakers they repeatedly tried to get the state to force their son into treatment but were turned away.
Under Senate Bill 5269, a court can order detention if, after reviewing the family member’s petition and a statement and other information from the mental health professional, it finds that it is warranted.
“The mental health community is pleased to see this bill pass, especially with such a large bipartisan margin. Joel’s Law will give families the ability to get their loved ones help when they need it most, and will empower those closest to a potentially dangerous situation to help prevent future tragedies,” said Leanne Kennedy, mental health practitioner and former school counselor.
State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, D-Seattle, who sponsored the legislation, also weighed in on the bill’s passage, saying, “We should thank Nancy and Doug Reuter, Joel’s close friends, and countless other families for sharing their stories of grief and loss.
“They have taken great steps together to ensure that other families can help those they love to get care before another tragedy occurs. They deserve the biggest of ‘thank-yous’ for helping to make Washington a safer place.”