Support Local Journalism, Join the SA Current Press Club.

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.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the San Antonio Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 1, 2021

View more issues


Join SA Current Newsletters

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2021 San Antonio Current

Website powered by Foundation