San Antonio State Hospital Is Fixing Its Escaping-Patients Problem


  • Video screenshot, KABB
Back in September, we got some unsettling news from the state health department: In the course of a year, 91 patients had gone missing at San Antonio's state psychiatric hospital.

While most patients were caught and returned, some of them posed a serious risk to the nearby community while they were missing — like when a schizophrenic man convicted of murdering his wife strolled out of the Southside hospital in September (it was his third escape in 13 months). In that case, the hospital failed to alert any neighbors, including two schools, of his escape. State officials promised to improve the hospitals security — but community members remained skeptical.

However, new numbers from the State Health and Human Services office show a remarkable improvement. HHS data requested by the Current shows that since August 2016, the state hospital has only recorded 28 instances of "unauthorized departures," and the number has steadily decreased by month. The San Antonio hospital is on track to cut the number of yearly missing patients by half — at the least.

In 2016, it was common for the hospital to report up to ten unauthorized departures a month. In 2017, three months went by without the state reporting a single one.

HHS spokeswoman Kelli Weldon told the Current that the state has made "many significant changes" to cut back on the number of unauthorized departures — like building a higher fence around the hospital "campus," adding deadbolt locks to all exterior doors, and adding alarms to the main gates.

But Weldon did not say if the hospital has improved it's ability to alert the community if a patient does escape. According to neighbors interviewed by Fox San Antonio after two patients were reported missing from the hospital  just last Sunday, they've never been alerted when a patient's gone missing.