Involuntary Treatment Act: Part 1

white paper on a vintage typewriter

One of the black box items in mental health (MH) is the ITA evaluation (Involuntary Treatment Act, Washington State, RCW 71.05). It is the process of civil MH evaluation, detainment, commitment and treatment. It’s one of those areas in life that most folks are afraid of, don’t want to know about and very few folks talk about. That is, until someone is in need, concerned about a family member or have issues about the homeless in their community. And then in crisis, it can be difficult to access and understand the what, why and how’s. The intent of the ITA posts are to present general information about a process that very few folks have access. As with any information, its application can be two sided. It can be used to protect or harm. Each community’s resources, procedures and relationships are different. Thus it is best to contact a local professional.

Disclaimer: This is general information and is not advice, consultation or recommendations. Please contact your local community professionals, crisis services or law enforcement if you need help, consultation or services.

One way to generally understand the ITA process, is from the perspective of a role in the community. An ITA officer is a “home plate umpire” in the crisis MH baseball game. They are the one who calls the strikes, balls and fouls of the pitch; and whether a person is safe or out while running the bases. The ITA officer is the 24/7 person who is called-in for an evaluation, consult and determination of a case deemed to be a “mental health crisis.” Conceptually, their authority is as a quasi-officer of the Superior Court of Washington. Specifically their duty is to investigate, evaluate and determine if there is evidence to suspend a person’s civil rights. And to “detain” a person for up to 120 hours at a licensed evaluation and treatment facility (involuntary psychiatric unit). However, this authority while having much influence; the scope/duty is very narrow and specific (presented in Part 2). Basically there are only two players that have the authority to immediately suspend a person’s civil right to move freely about and place them in a psychiatric facility; an ITA officer and a Superior Court judge.

Below is a conceptual “big picture” basics of the ITA embedded in the community.

The video below are my thoughts about this challenging, difficult and humbling intersection of the human condition. To be clear, this is how I made sense in which to operationalize this work. Other ITA professionals have their perspectives based on their education, training, experience and their role in this process. Last, through out my career and experience I was often in awe and humbled by these souls with tattered wings. These souls are courageous, compassionate, humble and a testament to which all of us should aspire. Thus with gratitude and grace, I/Love Change Grow is deeply indebted and dedicates these post to them, their families and community. Blessings to them!


Published by Love Change Grow LLC

Counselor and crisis consultant of 25 years. Providing education about how to navigate change.

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