INCREASE IN CHARGES TO BE MADE FOR CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF PATIENTS IN MENTAL INSTITUTIONS
1. A change in the maintenance rate for patients confined in mental institutions need not be served the same as the service of summons in civil actions.
2. The departmental order effecting a rate increase is applicable to all cases.
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May 15, 1950
Honorable Harold Van Eaton
Director, Public Institutions
State of Washington
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 49-51 No. 276
Attn: Mr. Van R. Hinkle, Supervisor
You have requested an opinion from this office on the following questions:
"1. In effecting an increase in charges to be made for the care and maintenance of patients confined to a mental institution by addressing an order to the guardian or responsible relative, must this order be served as a summons is served in a civil action pursuant to RRS 6930-b (47 Supp.) (Ch. 72 Laws 47, section)?
"2. Will an order issued by the department effecting a rate increase be applicable to rates being charged for inmates presently confined to mental institutions where the committing court directed a specified sum to be paid and made no reference to possible increases or decreases in rate?"
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:
1. An order to a guardian or responsible relative of a change in rate maintenance need not be served in the manner provided by law by the service of summons in civil actions.
2. An order executed by the department effecting a rate increase will be applicable to all cases including those where the committing court specified a certain sum was to be paid.
The first question is answered by section 3, chapter 72, Laws of 1947 (6930b Rem. Supp. 1947), which provides as follows:
"Upon the taking effect of this act, the Director of Finance, Budget and Business shall give notice to the guardians of inmates of state hospitals for the insane and to those relatives chargeable by law for the cost and expense of the care, maintenance, board, lodging and clothing of those inmates that on and after sixty (60) days from the date of service of said notice, every inmate in a state hospital for the insane shall be kept and maintained therein only upon payment monthly in advance to the Department of Finance, Budget and Business of the amount charged on account of said inmate. This notice shall be served in the manner provided by law for the service of summons in civil actions." (Emphasis supplied)
Section 1, chapter 72, Laws of 1947 (6930 Rem. Supp. 1947), provides that:
"* * * Every insane person, his estate or relatives, as above set forth, found to have the financial ability to pay the expenses above enumerated, shall pay therefor a sum based upon the actual cost of the previous year taking into consideration the overhead expense of operating [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the hospital and the expense of maintenance and repair including in both cases all salaries and expenses of supervision and management as well as the materials and equipment actually used or expended in operation as computed by the State Department of Finance, Budget and Business or such part thereof as may be directed by order of the court * * *"
Under that section of the law the department is authorized to put into effect a new maintenance rate each year to be based upon the actual cost of the previous year.
Section 3,supra, specifically relates to the first rate increase to be put into effect after the effective date of the 1947 law, and designates the method to be used by the department in putting the rate change into effect. However, the statute clearly contemplates that adjustments in the rate will be made annually but it does not provide that notice of a rate change in subsequent years must be served the same as a summons in a civil action.
It is therefore the opinion of this office that the answer to your first question is that a notice of a change in rate subsequent to the initial rate change in 1948 need not be served in the manner provided by law by the service of summons in civil actions.
The pertinent statutory provisions relating to the second question is found in section 1, chapter 72, Laws of 1947 (6930 Rem. Supp. 1947). That section in addition to providing that the amount to be paid by any insane person, estate or relative shall be a sum based upon the actual cost for the previous year for maintaining the institution, further provides:
"* * * If the Court finds that such insane person or his estate or relatives have not the financial ability to pay said sum, the charges and costs referred to in this section shall be borne by the State of Washington. The relatives of such insane person shall be liable for the cost and expense of the care, maintenance, board, lodging and clothing of such insane person in the following order: first, husband or [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] wife; second, parents; third, children. Either the insane person's guardian or his relatives or the Department of Finance, Budget and Business may apply for a modification of the order last made by the Court if a proper showing of equitable grounds is made therefor. Not more than one application for modification of the order shall be made by any person in any one calendar year."
Section 4, chapter 72, Laws of 1947 (6930-6 Rem. Supp. 1947) provides that an application may be made to the Superior Court for a modification of an existing order determining the financial ability of the estate of an inmate of a hospital to care for his maintenance. Inasmuch as the department is authorized to change the rate of maintenance yearly, which change affects all inmates of the institution, it would seem that it was the intention of the Legislature that in providing for the giving of notice that the guardians or relations of an insane person would have sixty days in which to apply for a modification of the order setting the new rate of maintenance charge.
In addition, the court order providing for payment of maintenance costs does not necessarily require payment of full cost under the provisions of section 1, chapter 72, Laws of 1947 (6930 Rem. Supp. 1947), supra.
Accordingly, you are advised that it is the opinion of this office that an order issued by the department under section 3 putting into effect a new rate of maintenance charge is applicable to all persons in the institution, but that within sixty days an application may be made by the proper person to a Superior Court to have a modification of that order in a particular instance.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General