State may move criminally insane to Western State - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

State may move criminally insane to Western State

Phillip Paul Phillip Paul
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SPOKANE, Wash. - The state may move all criminally insane mental patients to Western State Hospital in the wake of an escape from Eastern State earlier this year.
     
A report released Thursday by the Department of Social and Health Services says Eastern State may be unable to safely deal with the most dangerous patients in its "forensic unit."

Consolidating people found not guilty by reason of insanity at Western State also may save money.
     
The report, obtained by The Associated Press, was prepared by a panel of experts at the request of DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus. The department is seeking ways to prevent future incidents like the escape of Phillip Paul in September during an outing at the Spokane County Interstate Fair.

Paul was committed in 1987 for the slaying of a Sunnyside woman.

He was recaptured without incident near Goldendale three days after escaping.

Overall, the Washington State Psychiatric Hospital Safety Review Panel found that Eastern State Hospital policies and procedures were out of date, not well organized or distributed to staff; that Eastern staff were not documenting risk assessments as required by policy; and that the hospital generally did not pay sufficient attention to safety and security issues.

"Public safety should always be our top priority," Secretary Dreyfus said. "These recommendations will help us ensure that."

The panel did not study or recommend staff discipline at Eastern State Hospital, where the chief executive officer has resigned. Secretary Dreyfus said the Washington State Patrol has been assigned to review staff roles during the escape. She said discipline decisions would be announced in accordance with state worker contracts, disciplinary procedures and State Patrol findings.

Following the escape in September, the Secretary suspended all group outings at the hospitals. She said today that as therapeutic field trips are carefully reinstated, staff will be expected to not only comply with the new procedures but document the hospitals' readiness to implement the new policy.

(With information from AP, DSHS)

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