SALEM, Ore. (KGW) — The Oregon State Hospital is pledging to make quick changes following last month’s escape of a man charged with attempted murder. The Oregon Health Authority released a corrective plan Thursday, including the results of a federal investigation which found the man escaped in part because staff left the keys in the ignition of the van he was being transported in.
The Oregon State Hospital provides psychiatric treatment for adults who require hospital-level care for mental illness, including adults accused of crimes. On the night of Aug. 30, a patient named Christopher Pray stole a Dodge Caravan minivan while he was being taken back to the state hospital from a local hospital where he received medical treatment.
Despite being in leg shackles, handcuffs and a belly chain, Pray eluded law enforcement on a southbound chase on Interstate 5 and escaped, sparking a large-scale manhunt. He was found stuck in the mud in a pond in Portland two days later and recaptured.
According to the report from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, staff exited the van and left the keys in the ignition after pulling in at the state hospital, leaving Pray unattended inside the van and giving him an opportunity to get to the keys and drive away.
In its corrective plan, the hospital said in the future it will exclusively used secure vehicles to transport patients accused of crimes, with built-in barriers between the front and rear seats to prevent passengers from getting into the driver’s seat. The hospital also said it would only use secure vehicle entrances, such as enclosed garages with separate operators in charge of the entrances and exits, when moving patients in and out of vehicles.
Finally, the hospital said it will require staff to maintain control of vehicle keys at all times, and has ordered a new key securement clip to attach to all keys. Staff are being trained for all of the new security protocols, the hospital said, and it obtained two new vehicles with protective barriers this week from the state motor pool, bringing its on-site total to four. Trips involving secure patients will also now require the use of checklists upon departure and return.
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