Latest on Escape From Western State Hospital

Release Date: 
Apr 06 2016
DSHS Office of Communications
Kathy Spears
(360) 902-7893


OLYMPIA – Two civilly committed patients at Western State Hospital escaped through a window in their locked ward Wednesday evening. One patient has been found in Des Moines by law enforcement and the other is still being sought.

Both patients were seen about 6 p.m. during dinner Wednesday and were discovered missing at 6:45 p.m. during a routine patient status check. Staff conduct patient checks on this ward every hour, which means that nursing staff has eyes on each patient and states on the census roster what each is doing at that time, such as sleeping or eating. 

“The hospital is undergoing a complete safety review and plan to bring in outside experts to go through our facility,” said Carla Reyes, assistant director DSHS Behavioral Health Administration.  “We can never have too many fresh eyes reviewing a situation as serious as this. As always, safety – for the public, staff and other patients – remains a priority.”

The Department of Social and Health Services, which operates the hospital, is not aware of any previous incidents of a patient escaping through a key-locked window.  There is no indication at this time that the window or its locks were defective, but initial thoughts are that the bolts on the window were tampered with over several months.

One patient was admitted to the hospital on June of 2015 and the other was admitted July of 2014.

Both individuals were “1114 patients,” which references a civil commitment process established by HB 1114 approved in 2013.  Patients committed under this statute start out in the forensic ward. After a period of unsuccessful restoration services, a judge can dismiss criminal charges and commit them to a civil ward if they are mentally ill and they are a danger to themselves or others.

UPDATE: Additional information regarding escapes – In 2011, a patient left the hospital through an unlocked gym door and was located later. In 2009, another patient left the forensic unit by walking out of the sally port. That patient was located later the same day.


DSHS does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.