Cheryl Strange, current Western State Hospital CEO, has been named by Gov. Jay Inslee as the state’s new Department of Social and Health Services Secretary.

The beleaguered hospital is currently under scrutiny by federal inspectors after regulators threatened to cut its funding over various safety violations; Strange was named CEO of Western last year as part of the effort to rehabilitate the facility.

Recent evaluations have noted that Western has shown improvement in psychiatric care, but still scores poor in other areas. In a message to staff after the Governor’s announcement, Strange made it clear that Western State Hospital’s success remains a priority with her.

“We have a busy year ahead of us,” she said. “Our patients have serious psychiatric challenges as well as complex chronic and acute physical illnesses.  We must keep moving forward to improve many outdated and overly complex processes in order to provide our best care and build more support for recovery.  It is hard work to get back to the basics of hospital operations and quality patient care, but that is what we must continue to do.”

Strange will take over the DSHS Secretary post on Sept. 18. A search is currently under way for a new CEO for Western, per Inslee and Strange.  

“Over the next month, as I transition into my new role as your Secretary, I will be highly focused on ensuring that WSH has a new leader who embodies our core values of compassion, stewardship, no fear, and a genuine love for the work we do,” said Strange. “This leader must be laser focused in working with labor partners, staff, our consultants and WSH leadership to ensure our efforts result in improved safety, quality psychiatric and medical treatment, and the protection of federal funding.”