Local news


Field trips seen as key to treatment

FRIDAY, DEC. 18, 2009

Eastern State Hospital staff has been taking criminally committed patients on community outings to such places as Spokane Indians baseball games, Manito Park and the STA Plaza for years, according to state records.

Mental health experts consider such outings to be an important part of a patient’s treatment and critical to reintegration into the community.

Records also show field trips to businesses such as the Garland Theater, Wal-Mart and Auntie’s Bookstore.

A planning form for the day Phillip Paul walked away from hospital workers at the Spokane County Interstate Fair states the purpose of the field trip was to “develop and/or improve appropriate community behaviors and expose patients to leisure resources in the community.”

Paul, who was found not guilty of a 1987 murder by reason of insanity, was among 30 patients on the Sept. 17 trip to the fair. They were accompanied by 11 staff members.

Eastern State Hospital records obtained by The Spokesman-Review show field trips dating back two years, but state officials and hospital workers have said the outings have been in place for much longer.

“They have been doing this for years, but the problem is they were letting people go who weren’t court approved,” said Greg Davis, president of Local 782, Washington Federation of State Employees, one of the unions representing hospital workers in Medical Lake.

The documents show patients from Eastern State Hospital’s forensic units went on field trips, including “Two South One,” where Paul resides. Forensic units serve patients who are referred there by the courts for treatment or evaluation, or who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Though the names of patients involved in the outings have been blacked out to protect their privacy, they are rated in the trip-planning documents with a letter designation to determine level of risk. A patient rated A would be the least risky and one rated E would be the most risky.

Patients permitted to sign up for the fair trips were limited to A or B categories, apparently including Paul, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and who a Yakima County judge had recently ordered back to the psychiatric hospital because of behavioral issues while on conditional release into the community.

Notes accompanying the blacked-out names on the trip records indicate specific behavioral issues, such as “limit caffeine,” “impulsivity” and “delusional speech.”

Records indicate patients pay their own way on such outings unless they are incapable of doing so.



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