‘Joel’s Law’ clears key senate committee

Human Services, Mental Health & Housing Committee, Feb. 5, 2015.After broad public input, the Senate Human Services, Mental Health, & Housing Committee moved Senate Bill 5269, known as ‘Joel’s Law’ out of committee Thursday. The bill is aimed at addressing a critical need to reform the state’s mental-health system to provide help for mentally ill patients and empower families to pursue civil commitment in extraordinary cases. The bill is named for Joel Reuter, a severely mentally ill man who was shot and killed by Seattle police in July 2013.

“This is a critical step to empower families and protect the mentally ill,” chair of the human services committee and bill sponsor, Sen. Steve O’Ban  said. “We heard from people who were concerned about the rights of the mentally ill and we made changes to address those concerns.

This issue has strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. On Jan. 29 the  House companion bill was unanimously voted out of that chamber and awaits a hearing in the Senate.

“The House has sent over their version with some amendments and now we will look at reconciling the two versions. In the end, the important thing is that we give families a tool to care for their mentally ill loved ones,” O’Ban said.