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Mike Carrell to Push For Stricter Safety Regulations At State-Run Psychiatric Hospitals

The Lakewood Republican wants staff and patients at Western State and other psychiatric hospitals to be protected by sending patients convicted of violent crimes to state prisons after their mental condition is stabilized.

A Lakewood state lawmaker is again pushing to make staff and patients at the state's psychiatric hospitals safer, including Western State Hospital.

Sen. Mike Carrell, a Republican, says he wants to make sure violent offenders are given back to the Department of Corrections.

Carrell's proposal would place a person found guilty and mentally ill under the control of the Department of Corrections, housing them in one of the two state mental hospitals until their offender’s mental condition was stabilized and then transferring to state prison to continue their treatment.

Currently, when a person is convicted of a crime for reasons of insanity, he or she is sent and kept at the state's hospitals.

“In the forensic units, there are two groups of individuals: those who have been found not guilty of the crimes of murder, rape, assault and arson because they’ve been found criminally insane, and those who are undergoing assessment for those same types of crimes," Carrell said in a prepared statement. "The key is to find a balance between treating these potentially dangerous patients and maintaining the safety of other patients and staff."

“For too long the system has put treatment of some patients ahead of the physical safety of others," he added, "with nearly no real consequences for patients at our mental hospitals who assault another patient or staff."

Here's the full release:

LAKEWOOD… Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, said today he will propose legislation in the upcoming session aimed at changing the way Washington’s state-owned psychiatric hospitals protect patients and staff in their criminal (forensic services) and civil wards.

His announcement comes days after a patient housed in Eastern State Hospital’s forensic unit allegedly murdered another patient by strangling him with a belt. Earlier this year a patient at Western State Hospital killed a fellow civil-ward patient by shoving a pencil into his brain.

“When patients in a civil unit commit violent acts or become an increased threat, they may be sent to the forensic unit,” Carrell explained. “But clearly, after the murders and attacks we have witnessed recently, that alone is not the solution."

“Like the civil units, the forensic services units in these hospitals simply don’t provide the level of security safeguards needed to keep patients from attacking – even killing – each other or repeatedly assaulting staff."

“In the forensic units, there are two groups of individuals: those who have been found not guilty of the crimes of murder, rape, assault and arson because they’ve been found criminally insane, and those who are undergoing assessment for those same types of crimes. The key is to find a balance between treating these potentially dangerous patients and maintaining the safety of other patients and staff."
 
“Unfortunately, it would appear that when there’s a choice to make the system has sided with treatment over safety – with unsupervised patients and unlocked patient-room doors. This has to change. The safety of patients, staff, and the public as a whole, must be our top priority.”

Over the years Carrell has sponsored a number of bills aimed at increasing safety at the two state-run psychiatric hospitals – Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake and Western State Hospital in Steilacoom, which is in the 28th Legislative District served by Carrell since the mid-1990s. He says it is now past time, especially following the murders of two patients this year, to look closely at additional ways to make both forensic and civil wards at our state facilities safer.

“For too long the system has put treatment of some patients ahead of the physical safety of others – with nearly no real consequences for patients at our mental hospitals who assault another patient or staff,” said Carrell. “We either need a stand-alone unit to keep these individuals separated from other patients or we should house those that repeatedly exhibit these types of dangerous behaviors in prisons, which already have higher security forensic wards. I’m going to investigate what the solutions might be and bring those ideas to my legislative colleagues.”

During the 2012 legislative session Carrell sponsored Senate Bill 6010, a measure aimed at enhancing penalties for patients in psychiatric hospitals who attack hospital staffers. The bill passed the Senate almost unanimously but was not brought for a vote in the House of Representatives. However, portions of it were incorporated into Senate Bill 6492, which was signed into law.

“My proposal earlier this year to increase the penalty for patients who assault staff members was the right thing to do,” said Carrell. “Now I’ll look to expand that idea so we can keep this type of violence from occurring between patients as well.”

Carrell has sponsored many bills over the years related to Washington’s psychiatric hospitals, including a 2010 proposal that would have created a new category of “guilty and mentally ill” for people charged with a crime. This would not have replaced the “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea but added a level between that and “guilty.”

Currently, when someone who commits a crime is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he or she is usually sent to one of the state hospitals. Carrell’s proposal would have put a person found guilty and mentally ill under the control of the Department of Corrections, housing them in one of the two state mental hospitals until their offender’s mental condition was stabilized and then transferring to state prison to continue their treatment. Although the measure did not pass, Carrell said it’s one worth continuing to pursue.
 
“Safety must be a top priority at our state’s psychiatric hospitals,” said Carrell. “That’s one of the goals I’ll pursue in the session ahead.”
 
The 2013 legislative session begins Jan. 14.

Brent Champaco November 28, 2012 at 12:06 AM
It makes sense. Putting staff and other patients at risk because of the way a person pleaded doesn't make sense ...
Laura J. McGarry November 28, 2012 at 08:37 PM
“Safety must be a top priority at our state’s psychiatric hospitals,” said Carrell. “That’s one of the goals I’ll pursue in the session ahead.” Then deal with assigned counsel and the judges that send criminal defendants for competency restoration and forced psychotropic medications while ignoring all the law that protects the rights of these individuals. Deal with the incompetent and I allege corrupt psychiatrist at these institutions that over medicate and inappropriately medicate. Deal with the institutions and the DSHS that seem to believe that licensing themselves as medical test sites with waivers excludes them from monitoring by the DOH under RCW 71.12. When you have homicide, suicide and people choking to death in a "Psychiatric Hospital" the problem is not the patients and the crimes for which they are accused. Assess the med sheets that include these drugs and note that they are not prescribed without an as needed med for agitation because these drugs CAUSE AGITATION!!! These drugs are just as dangerous to start as they are to stop; these drugs once initiated lower the thresh hold for episodes of psychosis. The drugs are for symptom management--they are not curative and they alter ones mind and life forever once initiated. Apparently this state has an overwhelming number of incompetent people only because they are actually rendering incompetence with drugs to deprive rights and coerce guilty pleas.
Laura J. McGarry November 28, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Sen. Mike Carrell please educate yourself and demand all involved in the placement and treatment of individuals in these situations do the same as well and demand that they all comply with the law. How shocking is the simple fact that compliance with law not only saves money but saves and preserves quality of life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HE-bjg3JqA&list=PL07D415D2C540CB8E&index=3&feature=plpp_video Further READ Sell and Washington v. Harper and pay attention to Justice Stevens because he offered the best wisdom. This is the United States of America not Nazi Germany https://www.paxilprogress.org/forums/showthread.php?t=28059 http://www.mentalcompetency.org/resources/videos/index.html
Laura J. McGarry November 28, 2012 at 11:54 PM
In the years since the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999), the goal of the integration mandate in title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act – to provide individuals with disabilities opportunities to live their lives like individuals without disabilities – has yet to be fully realized. Some state and local governments have begun providing more integrated community alternatives to individuals in or at risk of segregation in institutions or other segregated settings. Yet many people who could and want to live, work, and receive services in integrated settings are still waiting for the promise of Olmstead to be fulfilled. Mom of a WSH patient, Cindi Fisher, flashes back to how exceptionally sensitive and compassionate her son was as a young man. “As a teenager, he left his comfortable middle-class home to understand the desperation of people living on the streets and in great poverty, and that's when the sadness comes so strongly: this isn't her son, but what the medication, being locked up for so many years, and being alienated from community did to her son, what him watching people walk in circles all day, in desperation and resignation did to him."

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