Senate to probe security at Hawaii State Hospital

What happens when a patient deemed dangerous to the community escapes from Hawaii State Hospital? That question will be the focus of the next phase of a probe by a special Senate investigative committee looking into the operations of the facility.

“The question about violence and escapes has been one that is being discussed more and more,” said state Sen. Clayton Hee, co-chair of the committee.

The hospital sits next to the Windward Community College with residents living a short distance away.

KHON2 asked Hee what could be done during the interim while the investigation is continuing.

“We talked about that,” said Hee. “The hospital has beefed up its security procedures.”

Hee says he would like to see a different, more secure facility. “The hospital needs to be a better, secure system, but that requires it to take on the complexion of a correctional facility,” he said.

The state Department of Health, which oversees the facility, refers to the facility as a place for mental health treatment, and not a prison.

Hee bases his argument on the case of David True Seal, who escaped in 2009 and now faces trial on the Island of Hawaii for second-degree murder. Hee says there were actually seven other escapees from the hospital that same year.

Hee says his committee will also look into a better way for the community to be notified whenever there is an escape from the hospital.

David Shinbara lives in the nearby community of Castle Hills. “In my 15 years living there, there hasn’t been any kind of notification,” said Shinbara. He says the only time he finds out about an escape is when he tunes in to the news media reports on television.

KHON2 asked Shinbara if the Department of Health should have some kind of direct notification system in place for the public. “Yes, that would be good,” he said, “not just for Castle Hills, but for other neighboring areas like Windward Community College and Kaneohe District Park, where there are a lot of youth activities going on.”

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