Additional security measures for State Hospital’s $140 million psychiatric ward

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After years of public outcry for better security, the Hawaii State Hospital will build a new $140 million facility.
Today we learned it will have 16-foot high security walls and enclosed courtyards.

The state unveiled the new improvements at a time when there are still unanswered questions on how patient Randall Saito was able to escape and take a flight to the mainland.
     
Officials say the new facility would have made it much more difficult for something like that to happen.

The new psychiatric facility will be built on the upper campus of the State Hospital. Mainland experts were consulted who emphasized building a place that will be therapeutic but also much safer. 

There will be courtyards where patients can walk freely but there will be fencing around them. It’s also built to allow the staff to see all the common areas in each ward.

“Which means the staff can spend more time interacting with patients because it’ll be one person’s job to be literally watching everybody’s back,” said Joel Dvoskin of the Nevada Behavioral Health and Wellness Center.

More interaction also increases the safety for patients and staff. It’s also designed to have more checks and balances within the staff.

“It will be impossible for one person to facilitate an escape because the control room is manned 24/7 by two people. Nobody can go anywhere without them knowing about it,” said Dvoskin.

But even the hospital’s administrator admits the facility can only do so much.

“It’s the people that work in the building. It’s gonna come down to them, starting with me to make sure that the policies in place are viable, realistic, and are followed,” said William May, Hawaii State Hospital Administrator.

While the investigation isn’t done yet, it’s likely to determine that when Saito escaped in November, he got some help by getting a cell phone, cash, and fake ID’s.  There are also four other buildings at the state hospital, where Saito would have likely been confined. But May says new policies are already in place to prevent a similar escape.

“Anything that we thought might have touched on the event in November we have either reviewed or revised or are in the process of reviewing or revising,” May said.

Work on the new building starts in August and is scheduled to be done in 2021. As for the investigation into Saito’s escape, the state says it should be finished in the next few weeks. Six hospital workers remain on paid leave as the investigation continues. 

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