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Western State Hospital loses federal certification and $53 million in funding

A sign for Western State Hospital is shown in Lakewood, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Western State Hospital has failed a federal survey, resulting in the loss of $53 million of federal funding.

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“Today, our hospital leadership team and others in the department are focused on reviewing the report from (Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services) and identifying the remaining areas of concern,” Secretary of DSHS Cheryl Strange. “We must continue to make improvements regardless of the status of certification with CMS.”

“The hospital will continue providing care to patients and remains steadfast in its dedication to providing a safe and compliant hospital to serve people with mental illness,” she said. “I’m grateful for the investments that the Legislature has made. My job is to ensure that those investments result in continued improvements for the patients at Western State Hospital.”

New patients admitted to the state hospital will be paid for with state funding after July 9. DSHS notes that federal money is about 20 percent of its annual funding.

Western State Hospital is Washington’s psychiatric hospital. It is among the state’s largest and oldest institutions. Criminal suspects and plaintiffs often receive mental health evaluations through the hospital.

The hospital is managed by the state’s Department of Social and Health Services.

Western State Hospital has been mired with bad press in recent years. The hospital had a string of escaped patients. Governor Jay Inslee also threatened to send its CEO to jail after suddenly firing the former CEO and replacing him.

Western State Hospital

The federal government has sent 22 surveyors to Western State Hospital since 2016 to gauge conditions at the facility. The hospital failed to meet the minimum requirements for federal funding certification.

In a June 25 letter, the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services wrote: “After an extensive review of the survey team’s findings … CMS has determined that Western’s progress did not constitute substantial compliance with the Medicare conditions of participations.”

DSHS notes that Gov. Inslee and the Legislature have spent two years increasing funding to Western State Hospital. This has been aimed at improving the more than 100-year-old buildings that are in need of repair and maintenance. They have also thrown money at recruiting hospital staff. The governor’s office has also been converting the hospital into a community-based system. The main facility would only be used for forensic needs after that.

“These findings help affirm that our plan is the right thing to do, and we are as committed as ever to implementing the reforms and systemic transformations that we know are necessary,” Inslee said. “We need to provide our patients care in community-based facilities where they can be closer to friends and family.”

“Other states have struggled similarly with maintaining large mental hospitals because it’s a 100-year-old model of care that doesn’t reflect our modern-day standards,” he said. “I’ll be working closely with legislators and community partners in the coming months to make sure we’re doing everything necessary to get this job done.”

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