Sanka party reforms state hospital from inside out

Andrea Kadlec
Director of Community Relations

Advocates start with coffee privileges, then tackle legislative hearing 

From inside the walls of Western State Hospital, advocacy that began with an attempt to restore coffee privileges has evolved to proposed legislation. This comes with the unprecedented possibility that hospital residents will be able to provide video-based legislative testimony. 

Advocates from within Western State Hospital on the ward that is the Center for Forensic Services began meeting as restrictions and lost privileges mounted.  They dubbed themselves the Sanka Party, when coffee privileges were cut as a budgetary expense.  

Additional restrictions included loss of grounds privileges, outing privileges, gardening, horticulture class, culinary class, an exercise bike, a yoga group, dual recovery Anon and AA group, permission to crochet and a reduction in art room supplies. 

Concurrent political pressure brought scrutiny to those committed to the Center for Forensic Services after being found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) as debate ensued as to whether or not an individual found NGRI could be moved under executive order from a hospital to correctional facility.  A high-profile incident of an individual who walked off campus at an Eastern State Hospital outing also created public pressure, which, along with a shrinking budget, according to Sanka members, exacerbated the growing number of restrictions.  

"We seek total restoration of all rights and privileges that have been confiscated in the wake of the Sanka party," said advocate Daniel Gautier.

The group created a visual representation of the growing number of restrictions and organized a meeting with hospital administration, and ultimately leaders within the Department of Social and Health Services.  As the group developed its own advocacy skills, they met with representatives from Washington’s NAMI chapter, and even their legislators.  

The Sanka Party met with Senator Mike Carrell and Representative Green.  Rep. Green subsequently proposed legislation, HB 1548, which lifts some of the restrictions around outings.  

Western State, DRW and DSHS representatives worked together so that members of the Sanka Party would be able to provide testimony in the event of a legislative hearing.