A patient of Western State Hospital stole a delivery truck and drove off the grounds of the state’s largest psychiatric hospital Sunday, injuring a hospital staffer in the process before being found at a school library nearby, according to police and state officials.
“The patient got into the truck with the keys in it and drove the truck through a large gate and off the campus,” said Lt. Chris Lawler, a spokesperson for the Lakewood Police Department. He added that the patient “didn’t try very hard to evade capture” and was located by the hospital’s security team before police officers arrived.
The patient ended up at Steilacoom High School, where he was found in the school’s library and returned to Western, said Chris Wright, a spokesperson for the Department of Social and Health Services, which operates the hospital.
A hospital staffer was injured after falling off the truck and was hospitalized, Wright said, adding that he didn’t know the extent of the injuries. The incident was earlier reported by KOMO.
It’s been five years since patients escaping from the state’s 857-bed hospital in Lakewood brought intense scrutiny to its security measures. Since then, the hospital has struggled with a lengthy list of safety and health lapses that resulted in losing federal certification — and $53 million a year in federal aid. The state has said additional crisis training and adding security guards, among other initiatives, has contributed to fewer assaults.
The hospital’s chief executive, David Holt, stepped down in April and DSHS named Charles Southerland as interim chief. Gov. Jay Inslee is continuing to advocate moving many patients involuntarily committed to Western to new facilities around the state, while lawmakers have sought funding for a new building at the hospital to treat patients accused of crimes.