Western State Hospital CEO fired following recent escapes

Apr 12, 2016, 2:00 PM | Updated: 5:52 pm

Following the escape of multiple dangerous patients at Western State Hospital, state Department of Social and Health Services announced Tuesday that former Chief Executive Officer Ron Adler has been fired.

Gov. Jay Inslee said the recent incidents had “justifiably eroded confidence” and that “it is clear that transformative cultural change is needed at this hospital.” Former assistant director for the DSHS Mental Health Division, Cheryl Strange, was appointed to replace Adler.

Inslee said he has known “for some time” that the psychiatric hospital needed improvements and that a pair of escapes accelerated the process that was likely going to happen anyway. He said a change of culture was needed, while also blaming severe understaffing.

“The ongoing issues at Western have justifiably eroded public confidence – and my confidence – regarding the management of this troubled hospital,” Inslee said. “Though legislators and I have been working to address the severe staffing shortage at the hospital and restore funding that was cut deeply during the recession, it is clear that a transformative cultural change is needed. There is a lot of skill, ability and compassion at the hospital to build from and they need a leader to help bring people together to move this hospital forward. Cheryl has worked in mental health for more than 30 years and understands the changes needed to effectively manage the day-to-day operations of the hospital, but just as importantly, she understands the intense need for a change agent who can restore trust and cooperation between hospital staff and hospital leadership.”

Strange is an expert in mental health and health care issues and begins her new duties on April 25th.  She was assistant director for the DSHS Mental Health Division from 2006 to 2008. She is leaving her position as senior director of the Heath Benefits Trust, SEIU 775 Benefits Group, to rejoin DSHS.


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