- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2020

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A bill in the Washington Senate would establish a four-year pilot program in three counties that allows courts to assign a special guardian to make care decisions for people who are incapable of making decisions for their health or well-being because of mental illness or substance abuse.

The executorship measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Steve O’Ban, would direct the Health Care Authority to set up the program in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties starting on Jan. 1, 2021. The measure, which had a public hearing Friday before the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee Friday, is one of several bills lawmakers are considering as they try to address homelessness in the state during the 60-day legislative session that ends in March.

Current law allows the state to help those with mental health or substance use disorders only if they are found likely to cause serious harm or is gravely disabled. The bill allows the state to step in for those who are not imminently dangerous but are unable to care for themselves and have been referred for involuntary commitment eight times in two years.

In order to qualify for the pilot program, the counties would have to meet requirements including ensuring they had sufficient resources to provide housing and treatment in addition to other services, including family support and consultation. The person who is subject to the executorship is able to petition the court at any time to contest it.

The program would have to serve up to 10 people in each county, and the people served through the program could live at home or in supported housing.

The executorship automatically ends after a year, or shorter if ordered by the court. A court-appointed guardian may petition the court for reappointment if they determine it is still necessary.

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