Western State patient bites staffer’s thumb in serious assault, authorities say

A staffer at Western State Hospital in Lakewood was badly bitten by a patient on Sunday in what the Department of Social and Health Services called a serious assault.

The incident occurred around 5 p.m. while the worker was assisting other forensic ward staff, DSHS spokeswoman Kelly Stowe said Thursday.

The forensic ward has patients who are involved with the criminal justice system.

Hospital workers were trying to restrain a male patient, who bit down on the thumb of one staffer, said Lakewood police spokesman Chris Lawler. The thumb was not severed, according to Lawler.

“They were transported to a local hospital, treated and later discharged,” Stowe said. She could not provide further information because of privacy concerns, she said.

Stowe didn’t know if the staffer has returned to work.

“It’s upsetting to staff and other patients when something like this happens,” she said.

Lakewood police investigated the incident and sent a report to the Pierce County Prosecutor for possible charges against the patient.

Western State has increased its assault-prevention training following incidents, Stowe said.

Three nurses filed suit against the state in 2018 after they were all attacked by a patient in 2017. One of them had her ear partially bitten off.

Staff writer Alexis Krell contributed to this report.
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Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.