House reps pass Joel’s Law in wake of 2013 death of Capitol Hill man

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Capitol Hill’s Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (far left) passed the first bill out of the state House in 2015.

The first bill to make it out of the state House in 2015 was one with close Capitol Hill ties — it was prompted by a Capitol Hill tragedy and introduced by a Capitol Hill representative.

HB 1258, known as Joel’s Law, would strengthen involuntarily commitment guidelines for people suffering from mental illness. If a county decides a person did not meet the threshold for involuntarily commitment, direct family members of that individual could appeal the decision under the new law. The bill passed with a 98-0 vote and now moves to the state Senate.

reuterThe bill was inspired Joel Reuter’s tragic 2013 death on Capitol Hill. Reuter was killed in his Bellevue and E Denny Way apartment by a police sniper when Reuter, suffering from a manic episode, fired a handgun toward police.

Family and friends of Reuter that spoke with CHS agreed that police did everything within reason to deescalate the situation. What Reuter’s family decried was their inability to have their son involuntarily committed for treatment because of strict protections in Washington state law.

Capitol Hill resident Rep. Brady Walkinshaw sponsored the bill after telling CHS last month that it was one of his major priorities in this year’s session.

“It was really exciting to have the the first bill of the year,” Walkinshaw told CHS.

Reuters parents, Doug and Nancy, were instrumental in getting the bill introduced last year when it didn’t make it out of committee. During a hearing on the bill in February, Joel’s father said he and others had tried for months to have a designated mental health professional recommend to a judge that Joel should be involuntarily held at a hospital for treatment. During that time Reuter had a string of run-ins with police and crisis intervention specialists and threatened to kill himself and his parents.

“I was told if he had a loaded gun on his hand with his finger on the trigger, then we could get him help. That’s exactly what Joel had on the morning of July 5th, and the help they gave him was to kill him,” he said.

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3 thoughts on “House reps pass Joel’s Law in wake of 2013 death of Capitol Hill man

  1. This is great news….hopefully the Senate will also pass this and it will become law.. A huge thanks to Joel’s parents who spearheaded the effort on this bill.

  2. While I understand the desire to do good in the aftermath of highly visible loss of life, this bill worries me a bit.

    Years ago in a far more conservative state back east, it was not at all uncommon for ultra-Christian families to have family members detained against their will on grounds of mental health just for being different. Kid wants to be a goth? Lock ’em up. Family member comes out as gay? Lock ’em up. Refusal to get married for a child to not be born out of wedlock? Lock ’em up. Strap them to the hospital bed and shoot them full of drugs until they act “normal”.

    Yes, today we live in a happy, modern, liberal state, but this bill weakens important legal protections against being jailed for not yet having committed a crime. Tides of culture or technology or prejudice could shift and make this a dangerous weapon against those of a minority lifestyle.

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