Governor signs ‘Joel’s Law’ allowing families to ask judge to commit suicidal, dangerous relatives

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Nancy and Doug Reuter testify before the Legislature about their son Joel, a mentally ill man who did not meet the criteria to be admitted to a hospital for treatment of mental illness. He was later killed by police in a shootout. (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

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.”

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  • Jeffrey

    This may work for families who have to capacity to hire a lawyer to petition the judge. What about the privacy laws that are in place to find evidence to prove a family’s case before a judge?

  • Stan

    I can see this not ending well. What burden of proof will the family need? It’s been my experience that most suicidal people lie about it. So is this going to be the family’s word over their’s?…slippery slope

  • Is moment

    This is an improvement in a very dysfunctional poorly managed mental health system. This family suffered a terrible loss. A few thoughts, who will maintain the clients safety while waiting for a judge to hear the case? If a DMHP does not determine that the client is detainable based on potential risk of harm to self, others or grave disability, who the can legally hold the client, against their wishes?

  • EdwardAPeak

    >>>my best friend’s ex-wife makes $61 /hr on the computer>>>>>. She has been out of a job for nine months but last month her pay was $15279 just working on the computer for a few hours… Read Full Article>>>>>>>> Read More

  • Mandi Pfeiffer

    My son is diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia & is 18 yrs. Old in a mental health facility & is getting ready to be released. He has nowhere to go. He can’t stay with me because I’m in fear of my life. I see that he’s not in his right mind & I fear for his life & the public that he will hurt himself & others. Please contact me asap. He gets released this Tuesday Aug.23. My phone # is 360-523-0175. My name is Mandi.

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