POSTED: 06/12/14, 11:08 AM EDT | UPDATED: ON 06/12/2014
MIDDLETOWN >> After the recent disappearance and recapture of a patient at Connecticut Valley Hospital – far from the first such occurrence – city officials have begun overtures to state authorities to revisit policy at the facility.
Mayor Daniel Drew told the Press that, along with Police Chief William McKenna, he has met with officials from Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office as well as with Patricia Rehmer, the commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
“We are working collaboratively to further revise the procedures that are in place to make sure that this sort of thing never happens again,” said Drew. “We’re looking at it from a number of different angles.”
According to DMHAS’ website, CVH is “the state’s principle forensic, general psychiatric and addictions inpatient treatment facility.”
On May 23, David Lane, a registered sex offender and convicted rapist whom authorities have described as having “violent tendencies,”disappeared from the CVH campus while enjoying an unsupervised grounds pass.
Lane’s breakout is at least the fourth such escape from CVH since 2008.
A shuffling of jurisdictional authority resulted in a 15-hour lag between Lane’s disappearance and any broadcast to the public warning that he was at large. Despite oversight for the retrieval falling under the authority of DMHAS’ police service, it was the city police who ultimately took it upon themselves to send a press release.
DMHAS officials announced on June 3 that the agency had its escapee back in custody, having tracked him down in Stamford.
“We need to have some of these discussions with state officials so we can make sure our community is protected,” Drew told the Press. “What I want to do is create a system by which we have immediate notification of walkaways, that we have a very clear-cut system for notifying the public.”
The mayor said that, first and foremost, it was crucial that “we work together to revise the procedures to do our best to prevent walkaways in the first place,” and “should that happen, that we have the ability to work jointly and respond very swiftly.”
DMHAS officials did not return messages requesting comment Wednesday.
State Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, part of the city’s legislative delegation, said that the mayor had looped her in to the proceedings. “We certainly are ready, willing and able, if there are recommendations in terms of policy.” But, said the senator, “They’re not at that point yet.”
“I think they need to really understand why this happened, what happened, where the lapses are and how they can work together to make sure that we don’t have another patient walk-off in the way that we did,” said Bartolomeo.
“Through that process, if there’s a determination that we do need to change policy legislatively, absolutely we’re happy to do that,” said the senator. “They haven’t had enough meetings, enough conversations – I don’t know if that’ll be the case, I don’t know if there was a policy not adhered to.”
At Monday’s meeting of the Public Safety Commission, McKenna told members of the Common Council that the State’s Attorney’s office would likely instruct DMHAS on what it would expect in the case of a patient going missing.
Deputy Chief Michael Timbro said that the city police would not wait for DMHAS police to issue public alerts.
“We will not be relying on them to do a reverse 911,” said Timbro. “When we get notified, we will be doing it ourselves.”
Mason had said in an earlier interview that DMHAS’ security force had requested public alerts from city and state police, but that there was no documentation of any request.
Drew had said that CVH and city officials had determined that an emergency alert would be best coming from state police, although none was forthcoming.
Lt. Paul Vance, a spokesman for the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, told the Press that state police had issued wanted bulletins through the Connecticut Intelligence Center.
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