Preview: Dangerous patients 'warehoused' at local hospitals

SEATTLE -- Inside every community hospital in King County mentally ill patients are tucked into emergency rooms, put on medical floors, boarded in ICUs for days, weeks, even months.

It is so common hospital officials have a name for the practice.

"When I say warehoused, I am saying we can keep them dry and safe and on their meds, but we are simply not equipped to provide the other care that they need to get better," said Swedish Vice President of External Affairs Dan Dixon.

The patients themselves are known as 'psychiatric boarders.' They are a result of too many psychiatric patients and not enough psychiatric beds at any given time.

"We have a public health crisis," said Director of King County Mental Health Amnon Shoenfeld.

State law requires individuals who are gravely disabled or a danger to themselves or others to be committed or hospitalized for treatment against their will even if the hospital doesn't have enough designated psychiatric space for them.

"Last year in King County, the Problem Solvers learned 3,000 people were committed, and more than 2,000 of them had to wait for help," said KOMO 4 Problem Solver Michelle Esteban.

But what happens when one of those patients becomes violent and lashes out at hospital staffers around them?

It happens more than you may think.

Coming up tonight on KOMO 4 News at 11pm Problem Solver Michelle Esteban exposes the dangers and shares her shocking interviews with nurses who's lives will never be the same after being attacked. Who is to blame and what can be done to protect patients and staffers? Watch tonight after Castle on KOMO 4 and decide for yourself.