Washington Tightens Security On Mental Hospitals After Recent Escapes

The recent escape of two mental health patients from Western State Hospital in Washington put an already troubled hospital into the national spotlight. One of the escapees is considered to be very dangerous. Two other patients took “unescorted leaves” from the hospital during the manhunt for the escapees and only one of them has been found. Western State is the state’s largest psychiatric hospital.

The hospital was already under investigation for a recent attack on a staff member and for patient-to-patient sexual assault. An inspection released this week found several safety risks such as unlocked doors and access to items that could be used as weapons.

Anthony Garver recaptured after escaping Western State Hospital
It was two days before Anthony Garver was recaptured, following a tip by his father. Garver tortured a woman to death in 2013. [Image via Lakewood Police Department]

Washington State Department of Social and Health Services made a statement and thanked law enforcement for their help in capturing the two escapees.

“The hospital has restricted patient-earned privileges that allow them escorted and unescorted access to Western State Hospital grounds and off-campus excursions throughout the weekend as the hospital increases its security measures. The hospital’s security team has coordinated closely with law enforcement to organize additional patrols on campus. Hospital staff are also focused on how to more securely serve higher risk populations in the civil commitment portion of the hospital.”

According to state records, there were more than 700 employee injuries reported between 2010 and 2014. More than half were related to patient assaults on staff.

Craig Gibelyou, a nurse at Western State said the place was like a revolving door with employees. Gibelyou said they leave after learning what their wages are.

The facility has been cited several times by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for safety risks, and has been warned that they could lose millions in federal funding, according to the Associated Press.

Carla Reyes, assistant secretary for the health agency’s Behavioral Health Administration said that escapes were rare, but unauthorized leaves were not.

“However, two unauthorized leaves and two escapes in one week is unacceptable, and immediate steps are being taken to improve security at the facility and to retrain staff. The safety of the public, the patients, and staff is paramount.”

Paul Vilja, nursing supervisor, said the men should have been assigned to a unit with 15 minute check, but they were only getting hourly checks. Vilja said he and other employees weren’t happy with the 15-minute checks that started two years ago because they did not have enough staff and kept them from their other duties.

The escapees were Anthony Garver, 28, and Mark Alexander Adams, 58. The men crawled out an unlocked window on the lower-security unit shortly after dinner on Wednesday. Adams was found the next, but it was two days before Garver was found, setting the community on edge and worrying law enforcement. In 2013, Anthony Garver killed 20-year-old Phillipa Evans-Lopez after she bought him breakfast at McDonald’s. He tied her to her bed with electrical cords, stabbed her 24 times in the chest and slashed her throat. A judge found Garver mentally incompetent to stand trial, according to CBS.

Mark Alexander Adams was found the next day. Adams asked a bus driver how to get to the airport. Someone recognized him and he was captured without incident.

After his recent escape, Anthony Garver also got on a bus, this time headed to his family home. His father called authorities to inform them Garver had visited him. Garver was found by a police K-9 in the woods near his family home in Spokane.

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“I was afraid this was going to go sideways,” Spokane sheriff’s spokesman Mark Gregory said Saturday. “I’m glad it didn’t.”

Gov Jay Inslee promises to address problems with Western State
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee promises to address promises with Western State after rash of incidents. [Photo by Rachel La Corte/AP Images]

Governor Jay Inslee is promising quick action to secure all the state’s psychiatric hospitals, but the focus at this time is on the facility where the recent rash of incidents has occurred.

“This incident put the public at risk, the staff at risk and the patients at risk. This raises serious questions once again about the management and operation of this troubled hospital.”

Anthony Garver is now being held at Airway Heights Correction Center.

[Photo by Lakewood Police Dept/AP]