State wants extension to comply with mental health order

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state says it needs more time to comply with a federal judge's order requiring officials to quickly provide mentally ill defendants with competency evaluations and treatment.

In April, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said the state was violating the constitutional rights of mentally ill defendants and gave officials until Jan. 2, 2016 to start providing competency evaluations and restoration treatment within seven days of a judge's order.

But on Thursday the Department of Social and Health Services said it had asked the U.S. District Court in Seattle to extend the compliance deadline to May 27. Authorities say one of the reasons the extra time is needed is because it has to address problems at the state's mental facility, Western State Hospital. Inspections found system-wide failures at Western State caused serious harm to patients.

The state says it is working to open additional facilities to provide more space for mentally ill defendants.