Local News

Dorothea Dix To Ban Unsupervised Visits After Dusk

Posted June 15, 2004

— Dorothea Dix Hospital created a new security policy in response to two recent escapes. Officials banned unsupervised transfer passes for all patients after dusk.

Last week,

Wendell Williamson

, 36, disappeared from the Dorothea Dix campus for 13 hours. On Jan. 26, 1995, Williamson went on a shooting spree in Chapel Hill, killing two people and injuring a police officer.

Williamson is a diagnosed schizophrenic. His treatment allowed him to have unsupervised time. He eventually called the hospital from the Lake Wheeler boat ramp located about 7 miles away. Hospital officials picked Williamson up and returned him to the facility without incident.

Another patient,

Richard Whitfield

, vanished on June 3 after Dix officials granted him a one-hour pass. He was found several days later.

"The best security measures in the world can always be improved, but sometimes you don't know you have a gap until something happens," said Mark Van Sciver, of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Raleigh City Councilman Phillip Isley wants reassurances that Dorothea Dix Mental Hospital has appropriate security. He is concerned security is taking a back seat to the facility's future shutdown.

"I'm frightful that they may be in a lame-duck period where they may be a little more lax than normal," he said.

"There is absolutely no laxness because the hospital is closing in a few years," Van Sciver said.

Isley has directed city staff to send a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Dorothea Dix Hospital will close in 2007 because the state decided to move many of the services of state hospitals to local communities.

A

master plan

for the 300-acre property is under way in case the land is sold. It could bring in millions of dollars for the state, but planners are examining options for land conservation, mixed-use development and state needs for office space. A legislative committee decided any proceeds from the sale will go in a mental health trust fund.

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