In a town where I lived for greater than 20 years, a criminally insane murderer recently escaped from a state mental hospital while out on a field trip to the county fair. My first thought on hearing this news was “A field trip? Really? C’mon, we’re not in third grade here, people.” Apparently patients at the state mental hospital are routinely taken on fairly well supervised field trips as a way to integrate them back into society. While I agree with that reasoning and it may be appropriate for some patients, I wholeheartedly disagree that it’s in any way appropriate for a violent murderer who is still presumably unstable enough to be discharged from that state mental facility to be out on a field trip. And it’s especially not appropriate for them to be out in a crowd like that filled with children. And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks it’s not really the greatest idea to have this happening. There are news reports that employees of the state mental hospital told administration they had concerns about the type of patients being allowed to go on these field trips. Rules and regulations about this had not been changed, however. There are also news reports that employees supervising the field trip noticed within moments this man’s escape, but it took up to two hours for administration at the hospital to notify law enforcement officials. If that is actually true, it’s inexcusable. As a nurse, I totally understand that a hospital employee’s first priority is patient safety and doing what’s best for the patient. Those concepts drive all patient care. But in this unique setting of a mental hospital where the patients often have a higher than normal propensity for violence, there is public safety to take into account, as well. I’m sure at times it must be difficult to balance the two. But in this case, it seems to me there was a breakdown along the line that lead to the public being put at risk. And that needs to be corrected. Immediately. I have no doubt that by the time the investigation into just how and why this happened is done, some heads are going to roll. Many members of the community are understandably pretty angry about the situation and going to demand some answers. A spokesperson for the state mental facility has said this man is stable on his psych meds for another two weeks. That’s all well and good, but what happens after that time? It’s highly unlikely he has a supply of his meds with him to continue taking. And even if he does have a supply with his, making sure he takes them correctly isn’t really going to be a top priority for him. Are they banking on the fact they’ll find him before the two weeks are up and he decompensates and becomes even more unstable and potentially violent? Are they willing to stake the safety of an entire city on that? That seems like an awfully big risk to be taking.
The patient has been found and is back at the mental hospital without any injury to anyone.