Western State workers walk out in protest of possible cuts

Western State workers walk out in protest of possible cuts »Play Video
LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Workers at Western State Hospital are issuing a warning: budget cuts will put the public at risk.

Dozens of workers took to the picket line for several hours on Thursday to express their concerns.

Yelling, "They sold us out! They're lies!" the picketers walked out in solidarity, concerned about their jobs and concerned about patient and community safety.

More than 500 of the state's mentally ill are housed at Western State Hospital. But budget cuts will mean many of those mentally ill people will be shoved out into the communities. If up to five wards are closed, 150 mentally-ill patients will be discharged.

"So what will happen is they'll go out and commit crimes not only in this neighborhood, but (in) Seattle, Kent...we have clients here from Bellevue," said health technician Dan Dawson.

"Some of the clients that they're talking about putting out into the community -- they're sexual predators," said institutional counselor James Robinson. "They prey on little kids, and I have a concern with it."

The problem is the $2 billion hole in the state budget.

"This is not easy for anybody," said Western State Hospital CEO Jess Jamieson.

Jamieson said the patients who'd be discharged are those who are dealing with dementia and traumatic brain injuries.

"They don't need to be in a hospital setting. What they really need is to be in a home and community setting," said Jamieson.

But the picketers were not reassured.

"They always say there's a plan for everyone, but those plans don't always work out," said Robinson.

The workers fear the people forced out will soon end up out on the streets.

"Without medication and without outpatient care, they're a danger," said nurse's assistant Deborah Osborn.

"That is not going to happen," said Jamieson.

The proposed cuts are just proposals at this point; the final decision will be made at the special legislative session next month.