Another escape from Arizona mental hospital raises questions about public safety

PHOENIX - Another patient escaped from the state mental hospital this weekend, according to sources and hospital officials.

The escape happened just before 5 p.m. Sunday from the Arizona State Hospital, located at Van Buren and 24th streets in Phoenix.

Hospital spokeswoman Laura Oxley said officials would not elaborate on the escape. She would only say that the patient was apprehended "within minutes about a block away."

"As far as how it happened, we won't say because of security," she said.

But multiple sources told the ABC15 Investigators that the patient threw a chair out of a first floor window and ran off of the campus.

Sources also said that the patient was missing for about an hour.

The escape was the second in less than two weeks from the hospital. It is also the second escape since an ABC15 investigation exposed how hospital officials made deep cuts to security last year.

The patient was classified as a civil patient, meaning they have been court ordered to the hospital for treatment of mental illness.

In an email, hospital officials wrote "at no time was this individual a threat to the public."

However, sources told the ABC15 Investigators that the same patient jumped over a counter at a nurses' station a few weeks ago and violently attacked a doctor.

Medical privacy laws prevent the hospital from releasing the patient's name. Officials also wouldn't comment on the patient's history.

In 2012, the hospital cut more than half of their security force -- 60 positions -- and decided to shift those jobs to direct patient care positions.

The hospital CEO, Cory Nelson, said that more direct patient care positions would result in a safer environment and cut down on escapes.

But our investigation found the hospital has been unable to fill those new jobs.

So far, there have been five escapes since the security force was scaled back in mid-2012.

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