OLYMPIA – Sheena Henderson was a loving mother and wife. Her husband, Chris, was known for his great sense of humor and love for his family. But, after suffering from a series of mental health crises, Chris took Sheena’s life and then his own, simply because he did not meet the criteria to be involuntarily detained long enough to get needed care. Sheena’s father, Gary Kennison, and her family and loved ones have since worked with state lawmakers to fix problems in the state mental health care system. Today, the House of Representatives passed HB 1448, Sheena and Chris Henderson’s Law, by a vote of 95 to 2.
HB 1448’s prime sponsor, Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane), wanted to address how police officers interact with suicidal individuals and give them an additional tool to report potentially dangerous individuals to the necessary mental health professionals.
“For the second time, we’ve passed this bill in the House in hopes of addressing these types of tragedies. The family and friends of Sheena and Chris wanted to do something that made a difference for future families, for something positive to come out of this tragedy. Incidents like the one that happened with Chris and Sheena should be addressed by mental health professionals who have the training and skills to decide when someone needs care,” said Riccelli after passage of the legislation.
For months, Chris Henderson suffered from a series of mental health crises. His wife, friends, and family all tried to get him the help he needed but weren’t able to do so. Chris had been seen by police multiple times, even having his firearm confiscated, but because he did not meet the criteria used by police to determine if someone can be involuntarily detained, he was let go. Then, in July 2014, Chris took his gun and went to his wife’s work, shot her multiple times, and then turned the gun on himself.
HB 1448 creates a new tool for law enforcement–the ability to indicate that someone may be at risk for mental health crisis, which would refer them directly to a mental health professional. Mental health professionals who received this report would then have 24 hours to contact the individual and family members to assess the risk and make a recommendation to involuntarily commit.
“This bill provides a tool for officers responding to a mental health crisis. It will also ensure a timely response by a qualified mental health professional in the hope of providing resources to help these individuals and families in our community and will save lives,” said Gary Kennison, father of Sheena Henderson.
The bill now goes to the state senate for approval.