Extreme Risk Protection Orders and Persons with Dementia in the State of Washington

Extreme Risk Protection Orders and Persons with Dementia in the State of Washington

By: Alexandra de Leon Date: October 19th, 2020

Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws reduce firearm access among individuals who are at a high risk of harming themselves or others. ERPOs can be requested by petitioners (household or family member, law enforcement) in court which would require a person at risk (“respondent”) to surrender their firearms and prohibit any new purchases of firearms for a specific period of time.

One of the groups at risk for firearm injury are persons with dementia who have firearms at home. Nearly 40-60% of persons with dementia in the U.S. have a firearm at home.

Researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center (HIPRC), UW Medicine and the Department of Epidemiology of the University of Washington School of Public Health have conducted one of the first studies looking at how ERPOs may be a useful tool for people with dementia. The study was published October 16, 2020 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

In this study, researchers looked at all ERPO filings in Washington state between December 8, 2016 and May 10, 2019. During this period 237 individuals had an ERPO filed for them. Out of these 237, nine were persons with dementia. ERPOs were granted for six of these individuals.

Researchers suggest ERPOs could provide a tool for concerned family members and law enforcement to reduce risk of harm among persons with dementia and the public for a year with the potential to renew the ERPO annually in Washington state.

“This study shows a pattern of firearms being unsafely stored and accessible to persons with dementia,” HIPRC researcher and staff member Laura C. Prater PhD, MPH, MHA says. “We recommend providers along with family members assess the presence of firearms and discuss this when individuals are early in the course of the disease or exhibiting symptoms of mild cognitive impairment.”

Funding for this study was received from the state of Washington.

Researchers in this study were a part of HIPRC’s Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program. The group’s mission is to reduce the impact of firearm injury and death on people’s lives through interdisciplinary research and collaboration with institutional, community, and governmental partners.