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Behavioral Health and Recovery Services

Department of Community and Human Services

Behavioral Health and Recovery Division
Chinook Building
401 Fifth Ave., Suite 400
Seattle, WA 98104

Jim Vollendroff, Dir.
e-mail us
Phone:  206-263-9000
Fax:   206-296-0583
TTY:   711 Relay Service

Employee Directory

Department: Community and Human Services
Adrienne Quinn, Director

Hospitalization - Voluntary and Involuntary

Hospitalization - voluntary and involuntaryAt times, an individual with a mental illness may need psychiatric treatment in a hospital. Hospitalization, often referred to as “Inpatient Treatment,” may occur:

  • when a person is at risk of harming him/herself or another person
    AND / OR
  • when the person’s mental illness is so severe that his/her physical health is being negatively impacted

Do I qualify for hospitalization services under the King County Mental Health Plan?

The King County Mental Health Plan pays for care in hospitals for low-income persons who have a mental illness and who require this level of care. To receive this care, a person must meet: 

  • Medical Necessity Criteria and
  • Financial Qualifications

Medical Necessity Criteria

“Medical necessity criteria” refers to whether a person qualifies for specific types of medical services based on his/her current medical condition(s).

Medical necessity criteria for voluntary care includes the following requirements:

  •  No outpatient services can meet the person’s mental health needs.
  •  Proper treatment of the person’s condition requires inpatient services under the direction of a psychiatrist.
  •  The inpatient services will likely improve the person’s level of functioning or prevent further decline in functioning.
  •  The person has a qualifying mental health diagnosis.
  •  The person meets the legal criteria for involuntary care but agrees to the hospitalization.

For involuntary care, the person needs to meet the legal criteria described in 71.05 RCW for adults and 71.34 RCW for children.

Generally, hospitalization is an acceptable alternative after exploring all other outpatient service options. In situations where a safe alternative to hospitalization is available, the King County Mental Health Plan encourages consumers to receive care through hospital alternatives. Hospital alternatives may include intensive outpatient services. When a mental health professional refers an individual for admission to a hospital through the KCMHP, KCMHP staff may offer and discuss several alternatives to hospitalization.

Financial Qualifications

KCMHP financial qualifications require an individual have one of the following:

  •  Inpatient coverage through Medicaid,
  •  Inpatient coverage through GAU or GAX,
  •  No coverage but meets qualifications for the PII program* (see 71.24 RCW), OR
  •  No coverage but meets qualification for the state coverage for persons being involuntarily hospitalized for psychiatric care.*

*In these categories, the person often applies for financial benefits during the hospitalization.


King County refers individuals to the following hospitals to provide psychiatric care:


Name of hospital









Population served by legal status



Seattle Children’s Hospital






4800 Sandpoint Way NE

Seattle, WA 98105



· Voluntary

· Adolescents and children



Fairfax Hospital*






10200 NE 132nd Street

Kirkland, WA 98034



· Voluntary and involuntary

· Adults, adolescents, and children



Harborview Medical Center






325 Ninth Avenue

Seattle, WA 98104



· Voluntary and involuntary

· Adults



Northwest Hospital






1550 N 115th Avenue

Seattle, WA 98133



· Voluntary and involuntary

· Older adults



Overlake Hospital Medical Center






1035 116th Avenue NE

Bellevue, WA 98004



· Voluntary

· Adults and adolescents



Swedish Medical Center

Providence Campus






500 17th Avenue

Seattle, WA 98122



· Voluntary

· Adults



St. Francis Hospital






34515 Ninth Avenue S

Federal Way, WA 98003



· Voluntary

· Adults



University Hospital






1959 NE Pacific Street

Seattle, WA 98195



· Voluntary

· Adults



West Seattle Psychiatric Hospital*






2600 SW Holden Street

Seattle, WA 98126



· Voluntary and involuntary

· Adults and older adults


*No emergency rooms at these sites

What happens during a stay in the hospital?

  • Each person receives a complete evaluation of his/her mental health, physical health, and a screening for substance abuse.
  • The individual develops a treatment plan with hospital staff and professionals involved in the person’s outpatient care. Treatment planning may also include input from family members or other interested parties. The treatment plan includes a plan for continued care when the person leaves the hospital.
  • Services in the hospital include individual therapy, group therapy, other group or individual services, and medications, as needed.
  • The average length of stay in the hospital is 1 ½ to 2 weeks for individuals admitted voluntarily and somewhat longer for those on an involuntary hospital admission. The length of stay for voluntary persons is determined by his/her needs. Sometimes a hospital stay is shortened if the person decides to leave early. A judge in a civil proceeding may determine the length of stay for a person who has been involuntarily admitted to the hospital. In this case, the hospital will make recommendations to the judge according to the treatment needs of the person.

What happens after a stay in the hospital?

Individuals discharged from inpatient care are linked to additional services according to their need and eligibility, which may include outpatient mental health services, post-hospital stabilization services including referral for residential facility services or other intensive mental health service program, referral to a chemical dependency program, or to other community support services.

What can you do if you (or someone you know) need to be hospitalized for psychiatric reasons?

If you are in crisis, you can call the Crisis Clinic, 911, or go immediately to a local emergency room, depending on your circumstances. If your situation is not an urgent crisis, you may consider doing one of the following:

  • If you are already seeing a mental health professional through the KCMHP, contact that professional and ask for his/her assistance in arranging hospitalization.
  • If you are not seeing a mental health professional, you may wish to contact your primary care provider or go directly to a hospital emergency room. The staff at the hospital will evaluate your needs and make recommendations. If hospital staff determine you do need to be hospitalized, the hospital staff will call the KCMHP for authorization of your hospital care.
  • If the individual you are concerned about does not agree to be voluntarily hospitalized, you may contact our Crisis and Commitment Services to have the individual evaluated for involuntary care.