Code of Ethics

There is no more sensitive area in the law than the contemplation of commitment for one suffering from a mental disorder. On the one hand, the statutory safeguards accorded the individual are imperative to assure due process.  On the other hand, there is the grave responsibility of surveillance of an individual who is in danger to self, others, or property, or is gravely disabled. The mental health professional, in assuming such onerous duties, is an indispensable instrumentality in the administration of justice.

Howard A. Patrick
Judge of the Superior Court
Island-San Juan Counties

An individual who is designated by County Authority in the State of Washington as a Mental Health Professional, hereinafter referred as a Designated Mental Health Professional (DMHP), is credentialed to perform a specific task in the implementation of the adult and juvenile Involuntary Treatment Acts. The DMHP believes in the dignity and worth of the individual and, based upon a uniform criteria of knowledge and skill development, makes every possible effort to protect the welfare of the individual and society.  Therefore, confidentiality, competency, and empathy are inherent qualities to which the DMHP aspires. The DMHP makes every responsible effort to ensure the highest quality care of persons referred while safeguarding their constitutional rights. In pursuit of this ideal, the DMHP subscribes to the following principles:

Responsibility: The credentialed DMHP places high value on the objectivity, integrity, and skills development and maintains the highest standards in service offered.

  1. As a practitioner, the credential DMHP understands the potential consequences of decisions made while performing duties, and therefore judiciously weighs facts in critical decision making.
  2. As an educator, the credentialed DMHP understands that families, relative, referral sources, and the community may desire information regarding services rendered.

Competency: The DMHP aspires to high standards of scholarship and skill development in the interest of the public and professional identity of the DMHP.

  1. A credentialed DMHP discourages unqualified persons from practicing and assists the public in identifying competent DMHP’s. When a credentialed CDMHP becomes aware of questionable practices of credentialed or non-credentialed DMHP’s, attempts shall be made to resolve this issue informally. When that is not possible, attention from the appropriate governing entities shall be sought for a formal resolution.
  2. A credentialed DMHP recognizes when it is appropriate to refer persons to specialists for situations falling outside his/her expertise.
  3. A credentialed DMHP knows personal limitations in regards to sound professional practice and seeks professional assistance and consultation when it is needed.

Public Statements: The credentialed DMHP will use discretion when making statements to the public, mindful of the need for clarity and honest representation of the facts.

Moral and Legal Standards: The credentialed DMHP is sensitive to social codes and moral standards of the community in which he/she works, recognizing that insensitivity involving clients, the public or colleagues impugns the DMHP and his/her professional reputation.

Legal Versus Clinical Issues

  • The credentialed DMHP will be called upon do decide if an individual’s constitutional rights are to be denied in the interest of clinical care and/or community safety. The credentialed DMHP recognizes that sensitive balance therein and resists special interest pressure to involuntarily detain mentally ill citizens.
  • The credentialed DMHP supports the principle that an individual who is mentally ill, intoxicated by alcohol or other substances, or is a behavior management problem by reason of age or infirmity, does not in itself constitute reason for Involuntary Civil Commitment.
  • The credentialed DMHP shall, where indicated, make reasonable efforts to have law enforcement personnel at hand to ensure his/her own safety, the safety of the community and the safety of persons being evaluated.

Confidentiality: The credentialed DMHP will not breach confidentiality, yet will assist family, relatives and the community in providing pertinent facts regarding evaluations of clients referred. The credentialed DMHP will subscribe to RCW 71.05.390.

Misrepresentation: The credentialed DMHP will not distort, misconstrue, or misrepresent professional qualifications, associations or affiliations. A credentialed DMHP will not use affiliation with the WADMHP for purposes that are not consistent with stated objectives of the association.

Unprofessional Conduct: The following constitute unprofessional conduct for a DMHP:

  1. Unprofessional conduct as defined in the uniform discipline act, RCW 18.130.180;
  2. Impaired ability to practice as described in RCW 18.130.170;
  3. Failure to report information required by law;
  4. Failure to refer clients to appropriate health care professionals, if services needed are beyond the expertise of the DMHP.

The private activities of individuals shall not furnish grounds for disciplinary action unless the actions affect the performance of DMHP duties.

The credentialed DMHP may subscribe to the Code of Ethics of their particular discipline, i.e., N.A.S.W., A.P.A., without being in conflict with the WADMHP Code of Ethics.

Sources

  1. RCW 18.83.120 (Law relating to Psychologists)
  2. Substance Abuse Treatment Workers Code of Ethics
  3. By-laws of WMHCA Article II. (Section 1 (b))
  4. Substitute House Bill # 470 (an act relating to counselors, social workers, mental health counselors, and marriage and family counselors).

January 31, 1996