House passes judicial review of mental health decisions

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state House on Thursday unanimously passed a bill allowing 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.

"This is the first step to solving a mental health crisis in our state," said Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, a Democrat from Seattle who was the prime sponsor of the bill.

Before the vote, lawmakers approved an amendment to officially name House Bill 1258 "Joel's Law" for Joel Reuter, who was suicidal when Seattle police shot and killed him during a standoff in 2013.

Doug Reuter, Joel's father, said that he and his wife watched Thursday's vote live online from their home in Dallas.

"We're just elated," he said by phone.

He and wife Nancy Reuter traveled to Olympia last week to testify in support of a similar bill before a Senate committee. They told lawmakers they repeatedly tried to get the state to force their son into treatment but were turned away.

The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration. A similar bill passed the House unanimously last year but did not get out of the Senate. Doug Reuter said he believes this year will be different.

"This is the year to make pretty strong, large strides in solving part of the mental health problems in the state of Washington," he said.

While speaking in support of the bill on the House floor, Rep. Jay Rodne, a Republican from Snoqualmie who was a co-sponsor of the bill, cited the Reuters' work in continuing to seek changes to state law.

He said that "the status quo is unacceptable."

"This bill is not going to restore their loss or the tragedy that befell them," he said. "But it will save lives going forward."

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