Gov. Jay Inslee has fired Western State Hospital CEO Ron Adler after an accused murderer and another mental health patient escaped through a window in the psychiatric hospital last week.
“This incident comes on the heels of numerous other ongoing issues at Western State,” Inslee said at a press conference Tuesday. “These incidents have justifiably eroded public confidence in the hospital and my confidence regarding the management of this troubled hospital.”
Adler took over the hospital in 2013. His termination was effective immediately Tuesday.
Inslee is replacing him with Cheryl Strange, who has managed both private and state-run mental health hospitals during a 30-year career. She begins her new job April 25.
Strange said her priority is restoring cuts to the hospital and seeking feedback from employees.
“I’m going to be out there meeting staff, residents. Hear from them directly about what’s working, what’s not working,” Strange said. “I think that’s a really critical component.”
Inslee said he’s known for “some time” that Western State Hospital needed an overhaul, in part because the Legislature slashed 400 jobs during the recession. New recruiting efforts, including bonuses, have helped the hospital add new staff at a rate of about 15 people per month, Inslee said.
“We are still well short and we’re going to have to double down on our recruiting efforts,” Inslee said.
The governor said the escapes “accelerated” his decision to fire Adler, but it had been considered prior to the incident.
Anthony Garver, who is accused of the torture killing of a 20-year-old woman, escaped from the hospital on April 6 along with another patient, Mark Alexander Adams. Police caught Adams the next day, and Garver was captured Saturday in Spokane Valley.
In response to the incident, Western State Hospital officials say all windows in the hospital have been inspected and secured. The Department of Corrections also has a security team at the hospital to inspect the grounds and review procedures.