Western State Hospital beefing up security; neighbors concerned for their safety

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LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Two dangerous patients escaped and two other patients simply walked away from Western State Hospital since last Friday.

Hospital officials said they are beefing up security to make sure more psychiatric patients can't wander off from the campus.

Some patients at the facility on a strict lockdown but others were allowed to have grounds privileges. But after so many patients have simply walked away, those privileges are now off the table.

People living near the hospital told Q13 News they are fed up with the security breaches and are demanding more be done to keep everyone safe.

“We have a lot of children out here,” said homeowner Denise Curette. “What are they letting out into our community?”

“I want to know that it’s safe to walk,” added neighbor Peter Newkirk.

Last week, two dangerous patients escaped from a secure room through a locked window.

But two other patients also simply walked away; one of them enjoyed escorted access on the hospital grounds, the other who police are still looking for was allowed to leave the campus without an escort.

After the security breaches, Western State suspended both escorted and unescorted ground privileges and canceled off-campus excursions for all patients.

The security breaches have state Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, calling on Gov. Jay Inslee to fix the problems.

“In another 30 days the federal government is going to decide whether to take away $60 million from this hospital, maybe even take away its ability to function,” he said.

State Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said the hospital is fighting an uphill battle and is in desperate need for more resources.

“We have huge staffing shortages because we are unable to recruit and retain to actually treat people,” she said.

But neighbors said something has to happen quickly before another patient walks off campus.

“They shouldn’t be here allowed to escape, the criminally insane murderers, should not be allowed to escape into our community,” said Curette.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, which runs Western State Hospital, has pledged to bring in experts to look over the hospital’s security protocols and has already beefed up patrols on campus.