O’Ban calls on governor to make sure Western State Hospital security fixes get completed this time

Longstanding security problems at Western State Hospital prompted Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, chair of the Human Services, Mental Health, and Housing Committee, to call on Gov. Jay Inslee to direct a follow-up security assessment to make sure the problems are fixed.

O’Ban’s concerns were heightened by a recent review of security procedures at the troubled mental health facility that found many deficiencies highlighted in an earlier review had not been corrected. The 2016 review by the Department of Corrections, “Western State Hospital Security/Escape Response Assessment,” followed the escape in April of two patients, one with a history of murder. The new review identified lapses that had previously been noted in 2010. Chief among these problems was a culture at Western State that led staff to downplay the importance of security procedures and staffing.

“While I was encouraged by the progress described by leadership at Western State Hospital and the security review team from the Department of Corrections, many of the issues now being raised also were raised in 2010,” O’Ban said. “For the safety of patients, the staff, and the public, we need to make sure that the security fixes are actually completed this time.”

Among deficiencies identified in the 2010 report that remained unfixed in 2016 were a lack of security inspections, failure to control access to tools and keys, and inadequate entry and exit procedures.  “Just this month a patient with a history of arson was reported to have obtained a lighter and set his third fire at the hospital,” O’Ban said. “So it’s clear there’s more work to do and that we need to verify it gets done. I hope the governor agrees.”

You can read Sen. O’Ban’s letter to the governor by clicking the link below.