Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. today outlined a range of security upgrades to UPMC's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic that the hospital system's board has endorsed in response to the March shooting spree in the lobby by a mentally ill man.
Pending changes include the deployment of University of Pittsburgh police officers at UPMC facilities throughout Oakland for a round-the-clock presence; the use of metal detectors, construction of a bullet-resistant barrier around the reception area; and the construction of a new entrance at Western Psych exclusively for employees.
"They will be on every campus that UPMC owns in Oakland," Mr. Zappala said.
UPMC also contemplates adding police to UPMC St. Margaret in Pittsburgh near Aspinwall and UPMC Passavant, he said.
UPMC's board on Sept. 12 adopted the recommendations from its internal security review of the March 8 rampage by John F. Shick, who walked into Western Psych with two handguns. Shick killed one employee and wounded five others before he was killed by police.
Mr. Zappala's comments came during a wide-ranging press conference about the incident, in which he revealed that Shick had 40 contacts between November and March with UPMC providers that he characterized as "all mental health" related. He declined to discuss any details of those contacts or what UPMC gleaned from the interactions as far as whether Shick was dangerous.
Mr. Zappala complained that despite his concerns about security at Western Psych, the county's Department of Human Services went forward this summer with renewing a nearly $15 million contract with UPMC to provide 24-hour mental health services through the re:solve Crisis Network without consulting him.
"That's very disappointing," Mr. Zappala said.
He added that he wants to amend the contract to include a provision for UPMC to pledge a continuation of the armed security presence at its facilities in Oakland.
Mr. Zappala described Western Psych's security as "either negligible or non-existent."
He endorsed the changes he said UPMC has pledged to implement, adding that they will amount to millions of dollars.
"I think this is great," Mr. Zappala said. "You're talking about a very substantial commitment to safety."
UPMC's internal security review was performed by Robert Cindrich, the hospital system's former chief legal officer and a retired federal judge; Edward J. Marinzel, UPMC's vice president of security services; and Eljay B. Bowron, former head of the U.S. Secret Service in the 1990s.
Mr. Zappala has his own consultants, former Secret Service officer John Hudson and Condortech Services Inc. He is awaiting their formal report but said his team has been working with UPMC's consultants.
Jonathan D. Silver: email@example.com or 412-263-1962. First Published October 2, 2012 5:15 PM