Criminal defendants have the right to remain silent, the right to counsel, and the right to a trial by jury. They also have the right to understand their charges and assist in their own defense. Some defendants with behavioral health issues or disabilities do not understand their charges. In those cases, defendants have the right to expedient competency evaluation and restoration before they face prosecution.
Since a 2015 decision in Trueblood v. DSHS, the state has invested significant effort to serve a rapidly-growing number of patients awaiting competency services. In his State of the State address this past January, Inslee called on legislators to help with further reforms to the broken system. On May 15, Gov. Jay Inslee signed SB 5440 to overhaul the competency system and reduce an impossible volume of referrals.
New Trueblood-related investments and policies will help more defendants break their cycle of involvement in the criminal justice system and begin a path to durable recovery.
The governor also signed HB 1134 to take the next step towards using the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to establish a statewide crisis response system. The bill will increase the number of mobile crisis response teams statewide and create new behavioral health crisis centers to decisively respond to 988 callers needing immediate intervention.