Washington State

House of Representatives

Office of Program Research



Judiciary Committee

SSB 5600

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.

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: Senate Committee on Human Services, Mental Health & Housing (originally sponsored by Senators Dammeier, Keiser, Darneille and Kohl-Welles; by request of Department of Social and Health Services).

Brief Summary of Substitute Bill

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

Hearing Date: 3/19/15

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 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.

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available on SB 5600.

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