Monitor: Too many in jails awaiting competency services

 A court-ordered monitor says efforts by Washington state health officials to shorten the amount of time mentally ill people wait in jails for competency services are failing to keep up with demand and urgent measures are needed to deal with the backlogs.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman issued a permanent injunction in April, ordering the Washington Department of Social and Health Services to cut the wait times to seven days. She said holding mentally ill people in jails for months while awaiting competency services was unconstitutional.

She set a January deadline and appointed Danna Mauch, an expert in public mental health systems, to monitor the state’s progress.

In her first quarterly report, Mauch said the state should be commended for taking steps to address the waitlists, but the steps have not provided relief for those awaiting services.