State workers union ads regarding more violence at Western State Hospital deemed 'mostly false'

Feb 18, 2011

A new TV ad created by the Washington Federation of state Employees claims that violence has increased at Western State Hospital – because of budget cuts by the state. 

The Seattle Times "Truthneedle" picked that ad apart and says it's misleading and "mostly false."

The ad is running on radio and TV and circulating on the Internet. It's is one of three ads that the Washington State Employees Union is broadcasting as lawmakers consider cuts to social services and other programs,  to help close a $5 billion state budget shortfall. It features a licensed practical nurse who works at the hospital, speaking directly into the camera to express concern about danger on the job.

The Seattle Times found there is little actual data to back up the claims. The newspaper says the hospital, the state's oldest institution for psychiatric care, has long been one of the most hazardous places to work in Washington. However, as staff reporter Mike Lindblom writes:

Western State Hospital, an 806-bed psychiatric facility in Lakewood, Pierce County, has faced budget cuts in recent years that undoubtedly make its difficult work even harder. In October, the hospital closed a 30-bed inpatient ward, cutting 50 jobs and saving $3 million a year. Not filling vacancies and cutting overtime have reduced another $1.8 million.

The union ad campaign comes amid concern about major cuts to the state's department of health and human services.

There's also been widespread worry about the safety of state workers, particularly after the killing of a prison guard earlier this month in Monroe.  My collegue Liam Moriarty did a very nice job covering the memorial of corrections officer Jayme Biendl.  Here's a link to that.  ;)

The Seattle PI also has this interesting take on the general issue of conduct among detention center workers and their working conditions.