WA Rep. calls for AG comment on placing of sexually violent predators in residential areas

Rep. Christine Kilduff (WA-28th) has formally requested that Attorney General Bob Ferguson give an opinion, addressing releases and less restrictive alternative placements for involuntarily committed persons into residential communities. Such as the sexually violent predators (SVP’s) living in a residential housing facility operating under contract through the Department of Social and Health Services, on Viking Way in Poulsbo.

According to the group, Washington State for Public Safety’s (WSPS) Facebook page, the Office of Attorney General sought public input until August 29, 2019 (after the press deadline for North Kitsap Herald).

WSPS has filed comments that include the key points below:

• SVP’s are excluded from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA ) and do not qualify as a protected class under the fair housing act guidelines

• Local governments should be afforded involvement in LRA placements for public safety

• State government should be afforded their right to create laws to enhance public safety and regulate less restrictive alternative placements

Ferguson’s opinion will have a narrow focus of responding to Rep. Kilduff’s questions, specifically, in providing a legal analysis of existing laws.

In her letter to Ferguson, Kilduff asks two questions:

“May local government prohibit or contest the release or less restrictive alternative placement of a person involuntarily committed to a state hospital or facility to a less restrictive setting, including an adult family home, when the person otherwise qualifies for release?” Kilduff asked.

Kilduff also asks Ferguson to consider his answer at a minimum of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Federal Fair Housing Act as a framework.

The second question she asks is “May state government restrict the release or less restrictive alternative placement of a person involuntarily committed to a state hospital or facility to a less restrictive setting, by statutorily providing for density or radius restriction on the location of adult family homes or by prohibiting any such person with a history of violence or sexual offenses from residing in such homes to another setting?”

In both questions, Kilduff refers to Revised Codes of Washington (RCW) 71.05, 10.77 and 71.09.

71.05 is the RCW that dictates how the state handles people with mental illness and developmental disabilities. 10.77 dictates how the state deals with criminally insane and 71.09 dictates how the state deals with SVP’s.

Kilduff was aware that Kitsap County was facing similar issues to Pierce County, where she serves, but was not aware of the particular situation in Poulsbo.

Pierce County, has seen a disproportionate number of releases of SVP’s particularly in the Lakewood area, which is home to one of Washington State’s leading mental health facilities, Western State Hospital.

“We’re trying to find a balance between public safety and access to appropriate care and reintegration programs,” Kilduff said.

“The questions I asked the Attorney General are really about what can local and state governments do to find that balance?” she said.

Kilduff is hoping for some clarity on the issue from Ferguson.

Back in February, Kilduff along with Rep. Mari Leavitt (WA-28th) introduced four new bills in an effort to address this balance. Kilduff sponsored House Bills 1825 and 1827, while Leavitt sponsored House Bills 1826 and 1828.

HB1825 focused on public safety, ensuring that communities are protected from SVP’s and that proper notification of changes to an SVP’s status be required under the law. The bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee in late February.

HB1826 brings the community into the discharge process, allowing access to more information so that there can be intentional and thoughtful decision making. The bill passed through the House and was sent to the Senate in March, it returned to the House for a third reading by the House Rules Committee, during the last day of session in April.

HB1827 emphasizes that the community work with LRAs and adult family care homes to make sound decisions ensuring that the safety of residents is not compromised by a prospective resident with a criminal past. The bill never made it to a committee.

HB1828 looks to the future, regarding how behavioral health facilities should operate in communities, particularly when one of their patients is released from committed care and has a criminal record. This bill also never made it to a committee.

It may be some time before Kilduff and the communities of both Pierce and Kitsap County, have their questions answered by Ferguson, who recently filed his 47th suit against the Trump Administration.

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