Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena temporarily ceased admissions after one of its patients was struck and killed by a vehicle while running from the facility Monday.
“We’re trying to control an environment right now that is pretty tense, pretty stressed,” the mental health hospital’s CEO Craig Aasved said Tuesday. “And (we're) looking out for the people in our care right now without adding any more to that.”
The 15-year-old patient from Missoula was struck and killed by a vehicle around 2:20 p.m. Monday on Interstate 15. The hospital issued a statement saying the girl left the facility after tampering with the fire alarm, which caused the doors to unlock.
Aasved said Shodair has notified the family members of the deceased and made its services available to them.
“First and foremost, our condolences to the family of the patient, and also our condolences to the individual who was in the vehicle that struck the child,” he said.
Therapists from the hospital also contacted the parents and guardians of all other patients to let them know what happened help prepare them for the calls many would inevitably receive from their children, Aasved said.
Shodair has called in a team of spiritual care providers, who will remain there for a long as needed to help the facility’s 71 current patients and 350 employees process their grief, he said.
“This is quite traumatic to our internal community, our staff,” he said.
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Shodair is conducting an internal investigation, Aasved said. The hospital has also reported the death to all external stakeholders required by law, including the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which could conduct their own investigations of the facility.
Fire officials will visit with Shodair staff Wednesday to look at other placement options for fire alarms, Aasved said. The goal is to keep the fire alarms accessible without compromising safety, he said.
“This is not a Shodair issue,” he said. “This is a national psychiatric issue within all facilities. We are all struggling with this issue.”
When asked whether Shodair is considering installing any additional security infrastructure such as fencing around the property, Aasved said that may be a possibility.
“We will consider all options, but that one hasn’t come to the table yet,” he said.
While the patient who was killed Monday was not the first to abscond from Shodair, Aasved said that happens very rarely. This was the first time a Shodair patient has died since it became a mental health hospital in 1987, he said.
Shodair typically sees about 1,800 patients from Montana and several surrounding states each year, spokeswoman Alana Listoe said.
Editor's Note: Shodair Children's Hospital spokeswoman Alana Listoe serves as a community member on the Independent Record editorial board.