Lakewood kids’ hospital plagued by assaults

Staff writerSeptember 29, 2013 

Assaults on staff have spiked at the state psychiatric hospital for children.

The Lakewood facility saw more than one assault every week on average in the year that ended in June.

Much of the recent violence at the Child Study and Treatment Center is blamed on just a couple of its young patients.

“We have had a select few kids who really kind of stand out from history here. They’ve come in and they have been much more violent than some of our kids over a longer period of time,” said Rick Mehlman, the hospital’s CEO.

In 2012, the rate of assaults as a share of patient days soared to triple what it was just two years earlier, according to a report this month by the Department of Social and Health Services, which runs the hospital. But a single youth committed more than a quarter of those assaults.

By the time that patient was discharged in February, a different youth was in a similar situation, blamed for 30 percent of assaults over the first three months of 2013 and half of those committed in the building, Orcas Cottage, that holds some of the most violent youths.

The hospital has put new training and security measures in place, adding mirrors, door alarms, radios and a camera, for example. But some employees are asking for more training on techniques similar to those used in juvenile detention.

At the state’s two adult psychiatric hospitals, the rates of assaults have stayed roughly steady in recent years and are far fewer at Western State Hospital than they were in the middle of the last decade.

The child treatment center is next to Western State and plays a similar role for children ages 6 to 18 as its neighbor does for adults. It’s the only facility of its kind in the state. Youths with the most serious mental or emotional problems go there — some who have been abused and some with histories of gang activity or other violence.

The hospital spent $14,000 for training this summer on new techniques for dealing with behavior.

Other recent spending includes $20,000 for upgrades to hardware aimed at keeping patients from hanging themselves and $4,200 on improvements to Orcas Cottage.

The Olympian is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service