New safety guidelines issued after escapes at Western State Hospital

LAKEWOOD, Wash. – More than 260 patients escaped from the state’s largest psychiatric hospital in 2014 and 2015.  Because of that, Western State Hospital was told to make changes to keep the community safe.

In early April, Anthony Garver and Mark Adams escaped Western State Hospital through a window.  Police eventually caught them after a statewide manhunt.

“I just heard they escaped but it was like three days later.  If anything, they should let the public know sooner,” said Faron Perry.

It’s one of the many policies Western State revised with the help of law enforcement.

“It’s important that we know what’s going on in our community. Especially if there’s some dangerous people running around,” said Perry.

Staff responsibility is clearly laid out.  First, scan an area for no more than five minutes.  Then, call the communications center with the patient’s name, where they were last seen, what direction they were going in, and any information that may help in finding them.

The new review doesn’t blame anyone, but instead does what it never did, specifically define terms and spell out all procedures.  The guidelines define the difference between escape and unauthorized leave, a pledge to tell police about a patient’s most recent history and if they could be a danger, and tasking law enforcement with when or how to tell the public.

"It should improve it. Any ideas they come up with would be better than they had," said Tony Warren.

“…it’s important that police, the community and hospital staff know as soon as possible when a patient is missing and whether the patient is a threat to others or to themselves,” said Western State Hospital Chief Executive Officer Cheryl Strange.

The new guidelines also include a rating system for patients.  For example, police will be told if a patient is Level Zero, which means they’re not allowed to leave the ward under any circumstances.  That will help determine if a patient is considered dangerous.