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Interim Agreement Reached in WA Lawsuit over Children’s Mental Health

dfae9b72cfTwo state agencies and several advocacy groups have reached an interim agreement to develop a framework for reform of the Washington state mental health system for children enrolled in Medicaid.  The agreement temporarily suspends litigation in a class action lawsuit filed against the Department of Social and Health Services and the Health Care Authority.

The interim agreement was reached after 13 months of mediation and provides for planning and infrastructure development to improve services for children and youth with significant mental health needs and their families.

T.R. et al v. Dreyfus was filed in November 2009 alleging deficiencies in access to intensive community-based mental health services.  The parties began mediation in January 2011 to address the claims in the suit.  Although the agreement does not settle the case, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly has suspended litigation activities in light of the agreement. The state and plaintiffs will collaborate on system reforms.  The ultimate goal is to reduce psychiatric hospitalizations, keep kids out of foster care, and reduce juvenile justice interventions for youth most affected by mental illness.

“This agreement reflects a tremendous amount of commitment and hard work on both sides,” said Patrick Gardner, Deputy Director of the National Center for Youth Law. “It is a very critical first step in getting our clients the care and support they need. The framework to be developed will greatly improve how Washington provides intensive community-based mental health services to children.”

DSHS Secretary Robin Arnold-Williams called the agreement “a model for how states and advocacy organizations can work together to promote improved services in a challenging fiscal environment.”

“We have a tremendous opportunity with kids with mental health needs because, by getting in early and providing intensive community-based services, we can really help them to turn their lives around, said Regan Bailey, Legal Director of Disability Rights Washington. “Many kids who experience significant problems, with the right services, overcome them and live full and productive lives.  This Interim Agreement takes us closer to making those services a reality in the future.”

“The commitments in this agreement will help move Washington’s mental health system forward by employing practices that promote partnership with families and serve children and youth in their homes and communities,” added Kim Lewis, an attorney with the National Health Law Program.

Plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Washington, the National Center for Youth Law, Perkins Coie, LLP and the National Health Law Program.

The agreement ends June 30, 2013. Prior to that date, the parties will mediate additional steps necessary to ultimately resolve the lawsuit.

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For more information on the TR case, click here.

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