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Western State Hospital CEO Will Not Be Going To Jail, At Least Not On Wednesday

Alexandra Kocik
Northwest News Network
A court commissioner has stayed his order for the CEO of Western State to report to jail.

The CEO of Washington’s biggest state-run psychiatric facility will not have to report to jail on Wednesday. The case relates to a man awaiting admission to Western State Hospital.

Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Craig Adams had ordered CEO Cheryl Strange to either admit the man to Western State or surrender herself to authorities. Now the commissioner has agreed to push back his deadline to June 21. The delay comes after the state Attorney General’s office filed a motion on Monday for the commissioner to reconsider.

The man at the center of this is a patient with dementia – one of 73 patients awaiting admission to Western State. He is currently staying at a regular hospital.

Commissioner Adams found that that arrangement, known as “psychiatric boarding,” violates the patient’s rights.

Cheryl Strange has refused to let the patient leapfrog others on the waiting list, arguing the state has good reasons for how it prioritizes patients waiting for admission.

“The staffing crisis at the hospital makes the admittance of civilly committed patients more complicated than just having a bed available. This is why Western State Hospital disagrees with a Pierce County Court Commissioner’s order to immediately admit a patient ahead of other patients who are more acutely ill,” said a statement from Carla Reyes, assistant secretary of the DSHS Behavioral Health Administration.

She goes on to say that CEO Strange is leading a series of reforms to address safety and staffing problems at the hospital.

“She can only accomplish these things if she’s working in the hospital,” Reyes said.

All 800 of Western State’s beds are occupied, though 181 of those patients could be discharged if there were beds available in other facilities. 

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.
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