A woman who attempted to commit suicide in the Spokane County Jail Tuesday was ordered to get a mental health evaluation within seven days of a court order on Oct. 28. She never received the evaluation.
Her defense attorney is now wondering if lack of treatment played a role in the 25-year-old's attempt to take her own life.
The woman is on life support, is not expected to survive her injuries and her impending death raises questions about mentally ill inmates not receiving the treatment they need even when its required by law and ordered by our judges.
The woman, who has not been identified, had been booked into the Spokane County Jail on 2nd Degree Domestic Violence charges. On Oct. 28, her public defender asked a judge to stop all legal proceedings against her client until the woman's mental health status could be evaluated.
The request for the 10-77 sanity study was granted and state law requires the mental health evaluation to get underway within seven working days. However, almost two months later the woman still had not been seen by Eastern State Hospital's staff. On Tuesday she tried to commit suicide.
Eastern State officials say they've seen an 80-percent jump in the number of defendants seeking sanity evaluations and their staffing levels haven't kept pace with the increase. Right now they're trying to fill vacancies but have trouble attracting qualified psychologists and psychiatrists who can make more money in private practice.
There are more than 100 defendants waiting to be evaluated by Eastern doctors and most of them are currently waiting in jail. The Spokane County Jail spends $20,000 a month providing inmates with mental health medications, but without timely evaluations by Eastern State Hospital that cost is expected to grow.
Spokane's public defender office has asked the court to fine Eastern State Hospital for not proving these evaluations within the seven days required by state law. Eastern officials, however, say they need for funding to keep pace with our growing number of mentally ill defendants, many of whom wouldn't be in our jail if they had the right medications and treatments.