Using the former Maple Lane School as a temporary treatment center for some of Washington’s mentally ill defendants looked like a good idea during last year’s tough situation. The state had been under federal court orders to ensure that accused persons found incompetent to stand trial are admitted for treatment within seven days of a court order.
Fast forward, the waits have been averaging five weeks – not seven days. This is clearly too long – and inhumane – to let a mentally ill person languish in a jail without treatment.
The state’s recent selection of a private contractor, Correct Care Recovery Services, offered promise, and it still may be a step toward better outcomes.
The facility, which is to operate on the site of a former youth prison near Grand Mound in southwest Thurston County, is supposed to begin offering treatment to 30 patients on April 1.
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But Disability Rights Washington, an advocacy group whose legal actions led to the court orders, is raising questions about the state’s selection of that contractor to run the facility under a contract that could pay up to $4.27 million through June 2017.
It’s fair to raise questions, and the questions must be followed up with careful monitoring once the facility opens.
Correct Care, the contractor, has had problems in other states where it operates seven publicly funded residential treatment facilities. The concerns were not trifling – three patient deaths in 2011 at a Florida facility. Locally, Pierce County at one point broke off its relationship and withheld funds from Correct Care’s parent firm, Correct Care Solutions, according to recent news reports.
The questions being raised point to just how difficult of a problem our state is facing in bringing humane standards to bear in the handling of people with mental illnesses. This difficulty is heightened in cases where the individual gets caught up in the criminal justice system.
The state Department of Social and Health Services must keep close watch on how its contractor performs. It would be advisable to have a plan in the works if lapses in care are detected.