HB 1726

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

As Reported by House Committee On:


Title: An act relating to modifying certain definitions concerning vulnerable adults, including the definitions of abuse and sexual abuse.

Brief Description: Modifying certain definitions concerning the abuse of vulnerable adults.

Sponsors: Representatives Moeller, Jinkins, Tharinger and Appleton; by request of Department of Social and Health Services.

Brief History:

Committee Activity:

Judiciary: 2/5/15, 2/19/15 [DPS].

Brief Summary of Substitute Bill

  • Makes changes to the definitions of terms regarding the abuse of vulnerable adults.


Majority Report: The substitute bill be substituted therefor and the substitute bill do pass. Signed by 12 members: Representatives Jinkins, Chair; Kilduff, Vice Chair; Rodne, Ranking Minority Member; Shea, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Goodman, Haler, Hansen, Kirby, Muri, Orwall, Stokesbary and Walkinshaw.

Minority Report: Do not pass. Signed by 1 member: Representative Klippert.

Staff: Omeara Harrington (786-7136).


The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) investigates allegations of abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, self-neglect, and neglect of vulnerable adults. The statutes regarding vulnerable adults require certain persons to report suspected incidents of mistreatment to the DSHS, and, in some cases, to law enforcement. Individuals found to have abused a vulnerable adult are prohibited from being employed in the care of vulnerable adults. In addition, a vulnerable adult, interested person on behalf of a vulnerable adult, or the DSHS may file a petition for an order for protection of a vulnerable adult who has been abandoned, abused, financially exploited, or neglected, or is threatened with such.

A vulnerable adult includes a person who:

"Abuse," as it pertains to mistreatment of vulnerable adults, is defined as willful action or inaction that inflicts injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment on a vulnerable adult. Abuse includes sexual abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, and exploitation:


Summary of Substitute Bill:

Several changes are made to the definitions of terms concerning abuse of vulnerable adults.

Improper Use of Restraint.

Abuse includes the improper use of restraint against a vulnerable adult, meaning the inappropriate use of chemical, physical, or mechanical restraints for convenience or discipline in manner that is: (1) inconsistent with federal or state licensing or certification requirements for facilities, hospitals, or state developmental disabilities programs; (2) is not medically authorized; or (3) otherwise constitutes abuse.

Sexual Abuse.

Sexual abuse includes nonconsensual sexual conduct, or sexual conduct between a vulnerable adult and a facility staff person, rather than sexual contact.

Mental Abuse.

Mental abuse is a willful verbal or nonverbal action (rather than a willful action or inaction of mental or verbal abuse) that threatens, humiliates, harasses, coerces, intimidates, isolates, unreasonably confines, or punishes a vulnerable adult. Mental abuse may include ridiculing, yelling or swearing.

Substitute Bill Compared to Original Bill:

The addition of "financial exploitation" to the definition of "abuse" is removed. The definition of "improper use of restraint" is amended to include restraint that is inconsistent with federal or state licensing or certification requirements for hospitals and state developmental disabilities programs (in addition to facilities). An exception is made in the definition of "mechanical restraint" for the use of devices, materials, or equipment that is medically authorized and used consistently with federal or state licensing or certification requirements.

Amendatory language that did the following is removed:

Minor wording changes are made for consistency.


Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Effective Date of Substitute Bill: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.

Staff Summary of Public Testimony:

(In support) This is DSHS request legislation, and it is aligned with the Department's mission to provide safety for seniors and persons with disabilities. The proposed changes are the result of recommendations of a stakeholder group. There are some organizations that support the bill but have concerns, and the DSHS is willing to work with those organizations. The DSHS investigates allegations of abuse. Many of the definitions in the vulnerable adults chapter lack clarity, and limit the Department's ability to prove abuse. The current statute does not define restraints or proper or improper use of restraint. Substantiated cases in the past have been overturned on a finding that the use of restraint was proper. Additionally, there is an amendment to include in the definition of vulnerable adult persons the DSHS have reasonable cause to believe have a developmental disability but have never had that proven. This bill is an effort to hold people accountable when they abuse vulnerable adults, which is a good goal. All people deserve to be treated with compassion, and we should do what we can to protect vulnerable citizens.

(Opposed) None.

Persons Testifying: Representative Moeller, prime sponsor; Bea Rector, Department of Social and Health Services; and David Lord, Disability Rights Washington.

Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: None.