Court hearing on treatment of mentally ill

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SEATTLE (AP) — The state of Washington is about three weeks late in meeting a federal judge’s order to provide timely competency services to mentally ill defendants who have been forced to wait in jails for weeks or months.

On Monday, the state’s lawyers plan to ask the federal judge who issued the permanent injunction for an additional five months to meet her deadline.

Disability Rights Washington filed a lawsuit against the state in 2014 saying that forcing mentally ill people to wait in jails for extended periods for competency evaluations or treatment violates their constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman agreed and ordered the state to provide competency services within seven days of a judge’s order. She issued her order in April 2014 and gave the state until Jan. 2, 2016, to comply.

But the Washington Department of Social and Health Services hasn’t been able to secure enough beds at its psychiatric hospitals to provide timely services. The state’s lawyers say they need until May 27. Lawyers for the mentally ill say that’s unacceptable.

Pechman is scheduled to hear arguments on Monday morning.