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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

After Inslee Announced Firing, Western State CEO Continued In State Service

Phil Thomas
/ -
File photo of Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Washington.

Former CEO of Washington’s Western State Hospital Ron Adler was publicly fired as head of the troubled state psychiatric hospital by Gov Jay Inslee earlier this year after the escape and recapture of two high-risk patients. But Adler continued working for the state.

Soon after Adler boxed up his office, he took a four-week job with the state’s Behavioral Health Administration working on “transition planning.”

In a brief telephone interview Adler said, “I was able to continue to make a contribution and for me that’s what it’s all about.”

A spokeswoman for Inslee, Jaime Smith, said “there’s often times some kind of a transition period” between CEOs.

Just two months earlier, Inslee had accused state Senate Republicans of an “election-year stunt” because they fired his Secretary of Transportation by not confirming her nomination.

For his part, Adler said he would have liked his exit as CEO to have been handled differently by the governor and staff at the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

“I wish somebody would have tapped me on the shoulder instead of throwing me under the bus,” Adler said.

At the April 12 news conference where Inslee announced Adler’s dismissal and the hiring of a new CEO, Cheryl Strange, Inslee credited Adler for making “some improvements” at the hospital and noted Adler was working with a “skeleton crew” following cuts made by the legislature during the Great Recession.

Nonetheless, Inslee said it was time for “transformative cultural change” at Western State Hospital. Besides the patient escapes, Western State had been struggling with ongoing safety issues that threatened federal funding.

In June, Inslee announced a 13-month turnaround agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to avoid losing $50 million in federal funding for the hospital. Last month, DSHS acknowledged that also in June Western State Hospital withdrew from an accreditation program and is no longer an accredited hospital.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."