The police chiefs from Lakewood and Steilacoom today joined in announcing a revised policy on patient escapes and unauthorized leaves from Western State Hospital, a mental facility that borders both communities.

According to a news release from the mental treatment center, highlights of the new protocols are a streamlined process for providing timely notification of a missing patient incident; a more clear definition of the differences between escapes and unauthorized leaves; and clarity as to the roles for clinical, nursing, security, escort, communication and administrative staffs.

“The staff at WSH made extraordinary effort to include police and other stakeholders in their policy review process,” said Lakewood Police Chief Michael Zaro. “I am confident that the work they did will result in a more efficient response from police and, more importantly, a safer environment both in the hospital and in the surrounding communities.”

“While the majority of patients treated at Western are not considered dangerous,” said Cheryl Strange, CEO of the hospital, “it’s important that police, the community and hospital staff know as soon as possible when a patient is missing and whether the patient is a threat to others or to themselves.”

Unauthorized patient walkaways at WSH have dropped dramatically from 181 in 2014 to 81 in 2015. March 2016 was the first month in years with no reported “unauthorized leave” incidents. From May through September there were 16 unauthorized leaves, of which four were reported to law enforcement.