DSHS news release on Western State security

Sept. 13, 2016

Several significant updates to improve the safety and security of patients and staff at Western State Hospital in Lakewood been completed or are currently underway as part of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services’ focus to fix systemic operating problems throughout the facility.

Cheryl Strange, Western State Hospital CEO
Cheryl Strange, Western State Hospital CEO

“Western State Hospital remains laser-focused on ensuring safety, security, active treatment, quality care and meeting the requirements set by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” said Cheryl Strange, Western State Hospital CEO.

At the direction of Governor Jay Inslee, Western State, the state’s largest  mental health facility, invited a team of experts from the Department of Corrections to conduct a thorough review of safety and security practices at the hospital. This review took place after the escape of two patients from WSH on April 6, 2016.

“We have taken the Department of Corrections recommendations seriously,” said Strange. “We have come a long way in the last 90 days and have much more to do.”

Sean Murphy, the hospital’s new Chief of Safety and Security, has been laying the groundwork to ensure that a safe and secure environment is a high focus throughout all hospital operations. Most recently, the hospital has emphasized the safe movement of patients from one area to another, ensuring that doors are locked on exit.

Another focus area is helping staff properly secure keys. A plan is underway to replace locking mechanisms and issue new keys on all exterior hospital doors. The hospital recently issued a new key control policy to provide clear guidelines for key distribution, emphasizing the need for secure access to particular hospital areas.

In addition to these policy and procedure updates, staff has received additional information on how to be helpful to visitors while ensuring they have proper credentials for accessing the hospital. Western State Hospital also is working closely with Lakewood Police Department to provide the most timely and accurate information, and recently adopted an incident command structure to quickly respond to law enforcement and the public about high-profile incidents involving the hospital.

“All of these changes have helped make Western State Hospital a better community partner,” said Strange. “And more improvements are on the way. A safe and secure environment is the key for successful patient care and improved work satisfaction and safety.”

– Washington State DSHS

See related story:

DOC report rips cultural failures at Western State: ‘We’re not in the confinement business’


Related Stories