Seattle Foundation Blog

Partnering to Address the Mental Health Crisis in Statewide Jails

To support mental health, we are partnering with ACLU of Washington and Disability Rights Washington (DRW) as the fiscal sponsor on the settlement of the Trueblood v. Washington State Department of Social and Health Services case.

March 27, 2017

By Jonathan Cunningham, Officer, Community Programs

The lack of adequate support services for individuals with mental health needs is at a crisis level in our society. This is something that confronts so many of us each time we leave our homes, as we commute past individuals on the street. It is also a crisis plaguing the court system throughout Washington,  where inmates requiring competency and mental health services are not receiving those services in a timely manner.

To help address this need, Seattle Foundation is using its unique role as financial steward to partner with ACLU of Washington and Disability Rights Washington (DRW) as the fiscal sponsor on the settlement of the Trueblood v. Washington State Department of Social and Health Services case. This settlement mandates that the Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS) provide better mental health services and jail diversion programs to those in need. Two years ago, ACLU-WA and DRW sued DSHS on behalf of people unnecessarily lingering in jail for months awaiting court-ordered evaluations. ACLU- WA and DRW won and DSHS was ordered to significantly improve the wait time inmates were facing from receiving mental health services, but the problem continues.

DSHS is currently in contempt of the judge’s order and being assessed fines daily for any inmates who do not receive their evaluation within seven days. As part of the settlement, the State of Washington has paid over $12 million dollars in fines for failing to comply with a federal court’s order regarding timely provision of mental health services to those waiting for jail. In lieu of funds going to individual victims, a public request for proposal went out to larger mental health agencies with the capacity to create much-needed jail diversion programs. 

Five agencies were selected by the Trueblood parties to received funding to provide the necessary programming:

--King County ($725,095)
--Comprehensive Mental Health Services ($956,683)
--Great Rivers Behavioral Health Organization ($857,693)
--Sunrise Services ($922,755)
--Kitsap Mental Health Services ($811,212)

Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court for Western Washington ordered more than $4.2 million of the approximately $12 million in fines paid by the State to be disbursed among five organizations that provide diversion programming and treatment to keep those with significant mental health issues from cycling into the jail system unnecessarily. Seattle Foundation will manage the initial distribution of $4.2 million dollars and work with the official court monitor, Dr. Danna Mauch, to ensure compliance and effectiveness in serving those with mental health illness, substance abuse, and other disabilities.

We see work like this as squarely in the middle of our Healthy Community Framework

“This partnership is a natural extension of Seattle Foundation’s role as a respected civic leader and steward of community resources,” said Tony Mestres, Seattle Foundation’s president and CEO.  “People with mental illnesses and disabilities have unique needs, and their overrepresentation in our prisons and on our streets is a tragedy.  These funds will be invested directly to address these needs and provide long-term supports to our community’s most vulnerable residents.”

For more information, contact Jonathan Cunningham, Community Programs Officer, at and check out this video on the Trueblood case created by Disability Rights Washington.  




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