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AGO 1954 No. 284 - July 15, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTIES ‑- PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SENILE PATIENTS, AUTHORITY TO ESTABLISH FACILITIES FOR CARE.

The Board of County Commissioners of any county has authority to establish facilities for the care of senile patients in available buildings and grounds; however, priority for admission to these facilities must be given to recipients of public assistance and medical indigents of our state.

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                                                                    July 15, 1954

John A. Kahl, M.D.
Acting Director
Department of Health
Smith Tower
Seattle, Washington                                                                                                     Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 284

Dear Dr. Kahl:

            You have requested our opinion upon the following questions:

            "1. Is it within the authority of County Commissioners to establish a facility or facilities for senile patients in available buildings and grounds to be made available solely for eligible recipients of public assistance and medical indigents of our state?

            "2. Is it within the authority of County Commissioners to establish a facility or facilities for senile patients in available buildings and grounds to be made available for eligible recipients of public assistance and medical indigents of our state as well as private pay 'senile' patients?"

            Our answers to the above questions might be summarized as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            The Board of County Commissioners of any county has authority to establish facilities for the care of senile patients in available buildings and grounds; however, priority for admission to these facilities must be given to recipients of public assistance and medical indigents of our state.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 1 of chapter 228, Laws of 1947, amending section 1, chapter 174, Laws of 1925, provides in part as follows:

            "The Board of County Commissioners of any county shall have the power to establish, provide and maintain almshouses and hospitals for the care and treatment of the indigent, sick, injured and maternity cases, * * *"

            It is our opinion that this statute gives the Board of County Commissioners of any county authority to use existing buildings and grounds to establish facilities for the care and treatment of senile patients who are medical indigents and eligible recipients of public assistance.  While not determinative, our interpretation of chapter 228, supra, is corroborated by the fact that several county hospitals engage predominantly in caring for the aged rather than for persons who are acutely ill or require facilities for major surgery or obstetrics, or both.

            In addition to the authority granted in chapter 228, supra, we are of the opinion that the several counties may use existing buildings and grounds to provide facilities for senile patient care by virtue of the general police powers delegated to the counties by Article XI, section 11, of the Washington State Constitution.  Police power may be exercised by a county to protect and promote public peace, health, morals, safety, general public welfare and prosperity.  Tacoma v. Fox, 158 Wash. 325, 290 Pac. 1010.  The establishment of facilities for the care of senile patients is a reasonable use of this power.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

HAROLD J. HUNSAKER
Assistant Attorney General

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