Western State Hospital, Washington’s largest psychiatric facility, has a shortage of both staff and available beds. There are waiting lists both for patients to be admitted and to be discharged.

Share story

LAKEWOOD, Pierce County — A court commissioner Wednesday refused a request by state officials to reconsider his order that patients be moved more quickly in and out of Western State Hospital.

Pierce County Court Commissioner Craig Adams also went ahead with appointing an independent monitor to oversee the improvement goals he outlined last month for the hospital.

The hospital is plagued by staff and bed shortages and has waiting lists both for patients to be discharged and also admitted. Psychiatric patients ordered to go to Westen State instead wind up being detained at hospitals or community treatment facilities.

“We cannot continue to lock people up without providing meaningful treatment for them,” said Adams.

Washington state officials asked for a stay to the court order, which was intended to get patients moving more quickly through Western State Hospital.

To help resolve the issue, Pierce County Court Commissioner Craig Adams ordered Western State to have an independent monitor known as a “special master” to track progress.

In his order last month, Adams also set a goal that within six months, the state should not be housing psychiatric patients in community facilities for longer than 30 days if they are supposed to be at Western State.

The state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), which oversees Western State, had filed a motion to stay that order.

This year DSHS asked for — and got — a stay against Adams’ order that would have sent Western State CEO Cheryl Strange to jail if she didn’t admit a dementia patient.

Adams’ actions have been an attempt to push the state toward improving the treatment of psychiatric patients.