Ricky’s Law: Involuntary Treatment Act

Crisis contact services

If you are currently in crisis:

What happens if you call a crisis line?

Learn what happens when you call a crisis line for a loved one with a substance use disorder?

  1. Designated crisis responders (DCR) and/or emergency services will arrive on the scene to perform an initial investigation of the crisis. The response time may vary depending on the location, availability of staff, and the information provided to the crisis services and 9-1-1 or 9-8-8 dispatcher.
  2. The DCRs and emergency services may need to ask further questions to determine the appropriate response.
  3. The individual who is experiencing a crisis may be determined to require services.
  4. If the individual does require services for substance use disorder, the individual will be detained immediately for involuntary treatment at a secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility.
  5. If the individual does not meet criteria for involuntary treatment for a substance use disorder, they may agree to voluntary treatment or a safety plan with the designated crisis responder.

What is a secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility?

A secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility is a facility certified by the Department of Health to provide withdrawal management and stabilization treatment under the supervision of a physician for individuals detained for involuntary treatment for substance use disorders.

Secure withdrawal management and stabilization facilities will provide up 17 days of withdrawal management and substance use treatment for adults and adolescents over 13 years old who present a likelihood of serious harm to themselves or others, other’s property, or are gravely disabled due to a substance use disorder.

What are the rights of those entering treatment?

Under Ricky’s Law community members entering treatment involuntarily and those who enter a less restrictive form of treatment are protected by the patient rights outlined by RCW 71.05.360 and 71.05.217. A list of these rights must be prominently displayed in all facilities providing these services.

Historical context

On April 1, 2018, two changes in the adult and youth Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA) for Substance Use Disorders (SUD) went into effect.

  • Designated mental health professionals will become designated crisis responders (DCRs).
  • Community members who are a danger to themselves or others, other’s property, or gravely disabled due to a drug or alcohol problem may be involuntary detained to a secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility—also known as secure detox.

Ricky’s Law, House Bill 1713, aligns Washington’s substance use and mental health statutes addressing the way we deliver care to individuals.

The goal was to create a unified involuntary commitment law that allows those who are at-risk due to a substance use disorder to get the necessary care to protect them and the community. The law is named after Ricky Garcia, a young man who suffered for years from substance use disorders and was hospitalized several times due to feeling suicidal. During his last involuntary hospitalization, he agreed to go into drug treatment and has reportedly been clean and sober for many years.

When secure detoxification facility beds are not available, patients like Ricky ended up in emergency rooms, mental health facilities or even jail cells where they were not always able get the appropriate care.

The law

In 2016, House Bill 1713 made changes to the behavioral health system and significantly amended RCW 71.05 and RCW 71.34 — effective April 1, 2018 — to include substance use in the ITA process.

On April 1, 2018, designated mental health professionals will be able to detain a person who meets the criteria for involuntary treatment due to a substance use disorder to a secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility if there is space available.


If you are currently in crisis:

For immediate help
Call 911 for a life-threatening emergency

For suicide prevention
Online: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Phone: 1-800-273-8255 (TRS: 1-800-799-4889)

For questions about Ricky's Law:

Michaela Holsinger, LICSWA, Long Term Placement and Discharge Coordinator
office: (360) 725-2070