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.

As Passed House - Amended:

April 13, 2015

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 History:

Committee Activity:

Judiciary: 3/19/15, 3/26/15 [DPA].

Floor Activity:

Passed House - Amended: 4/13/15, 97-0.

Brief Summary of Substitute Bill

(As Amended by House)

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


Majority Report: Do pass as amended. Signed by 13 members: Representatives Jinkins, Chair; Kilduff, Vice Chair; Rodne, Ranking Minority Member; Shea, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Goodman, Haler, Hansen, Kirby, Klippert, Muri, Orwall, Stokesbary and Walkinshaw.

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 Amended 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.

Effective Date of Amended 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 bill arose from the Joint Legislative Executive Committee on Aging and Disability (Committee). This bill is a small but important update to the law relating to vulnerable adults, and matches a bill the committee has already seen. There are slight language changes that do not change the intent or substance of the bill. This improper restraint provisions in the bill will not impact silver alert because things like delayed egress, door alarms, and similar measures are permitted under licensing requirements and would not fall under those definitions. Another bill that the Committee discussed regarding criminal mistreatment, House Bill 1499, would fit under the title of this bill and should be considered as an addition.

Some of the changes are bothersome. Specifically, the lines that are struck on page 2, lines 19 and 20 should be reinstated.

(Opposed) None.

Persons Testifying: Senator Dammeier, prime sponsor; Jacqueline Sorgeh, King County Democrats Committee on Disability; Bea Rector, Department of Social and Health Services; and David Lord, Disability Rights Washington.

Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: None.