Joel Reuter, a software engineer with bipolar disorder, was killed by Seattle police in July after firing near officers from the balcony of his condo. Reuter, 28, thought he was shooting at zombies. Six months later, says the Seattle Times, his parents have moved from Dallas to Olympia to lobby the legislature to make it easier to commit mentally ill people. Doug and Nancy Reuter want Washington to adopt Arizona's system, which they say twice saved their son's life when he attended college there.
The parents are working to introduce a bill that would add “persistently or acutely disabled” to the list of conditions that could trigger an involuntary commitment. Currently in Washington, a person must be “gravely disabled” or in imminent danger of harming self or others. The bill would allow residents to petition to have a family member committed and would mandate more monitoring after the commitments end. The changes would mark a major shift for a state that has prized civil liberties in the involuntary-commitment balance between rights and security. While Washington's “imminent danger” standard matches many other states — Arizona's definition is broader than average — Washington is one of five states that does not allow residents to petition a court for a family member to be committed, according to the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center.