"It's not unheard of" for murderers to go on hospital field trips - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

"It's not unheard of" for murderers to be part of hospital field trips

MEDICAL LAKE, Wash. - The escape of Phillip A. Paul from an Eastern State Hospital field trip to the Spokane County Interstate Fair has the public and lawmakers questioning why Paul was allowed to go on the trip. 

KHQ has attempted to contact an Eastern State Hospital spokesperson.  No one with the hospital was available for comment, so KHQ contacted the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), which oversees Eastern. 

DSHS says hospital patients routinely attend public events, including the fair and Bloomsday, with staff chaperones.  Patients also reportedly make trips to other public places, like malls and parks.  DSHS says the trips are not uncommon and allow patients to work on their "life skills."

This policy is not endemic to Washington.  KHQ contacted Oregon State Hospital regarding its policy on trips to public events.  Sue Wimmer, a spokesperson for the Rehabilitation Services Department, says the policy at OSH is similar to the one at ESH.  Oregon State Hospital is not required to notify law enforcement or event organizers if a group of patients is going on a field trip. 

When asked if murderers are part of the trip groups from OSH, Wimmer said, "It's not unheard of."

Wimmer says patients get a better "real-life" experience if event organizers and law enforcement do not know they are there.  OSH does not want patients targeted or treated differently during public outings because it may interfere with their recovery.  According to Wimmer, the trips are critical to helping patients learn social skills, money management skills, etc.  In order to go on the trip, staff must fill out forms, which are then turned over to a risk review board.  Each patient's treatment team must also approve the application for a public outing.
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