‘Rachel’s Law’ bill appears to be on hold; Shea vows to keep working the issue

A bill that would have given parents the authority to involuntarily commit their minor child into a chemical treatment facility failed to move out of a House committee by the Legislature’s cutoff for bills this week. However, it’s prime sponsor, Rep. Matt Shea, hasn’t given up yet.

“This is about saving young lives,” said Shea, R-Spokane Valley, “and if we can gather up enough support, it’s my hope we can move this bill through the process before the regular session ends next month.”

House Bill 2958, also known as “Rachel’s Law,” is named after Rachel Meyers, an 18-year-old woman from Spokane who died last March of a heroin overdose after her father, Scott Meyers, was repeatedly refused the ability to keep her confined in a treatment center.

“Scott Meyers did everything a parent could do to try to help his daughter overcome addiction to drugs. But he hit a brick wall at every turn,” said Shea. “When he had her hospitalized, he discovered when he called the hospital the next day that she had left. The hospital did not have the legal authority to hold her against her wishes.”

In Washington, there is no involuntary commitment law for people suffering from chemical dependency. Once a child reaches the age of 13, a parent no longer has the ability to provide consent for involuntary treatment of that child in Washington. To be treated involuntarily, a mental health specialist would have to declare the individual an immediate danger to himself/herself or others.

Shea’s bill would ensure a parent or guardian has the authority to admit and keep a minor child into a chemical dependency treatment facility for up to 14 days. The measure was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but a public hearing was denied by the committee chair, effectively stalling the bill.

“The story of Rachel Meyers is tragic. We have the ability to prevent future tragedies like this one by giving parents the tools they need to help their children,” added Shea. “It’s my hope we can act sooner than later before another parent suffers this loss.”

For more information about Rep. Shea, visit: www.representativemattshea.com.

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