News release today from the state Human Services Department:

The Arkansas Department of Human Services is currently working with law enforcement to locate an Arkansas State Hospital staff member and forensic hospital patient who left the facility without authorization Tuesday.

The hospital employee’s actions were captured on surveillance footage. It appears the staff member used their access to the Arkansas State Hospital forensic unit to reach a patient, walk the patient out of the facility, and drive off with the patient in the staff member’s personal vehicle at approximately 8:20 a.m.

A statewide “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) has been issued, and law enforcement in the employee’s and patient’s hometowns have been notified. Agency staff are also coordinating and requesting other available assistance from law enforcement as appropriate to locate these individuals.

The hospital employee will be terminated once located. An investigation is underway regarding the incident.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of these individuals, please contact your local law enforcement.

 It’s hard to provide information on people without names, physical descriptions or photos or any hints to where they might be heading. And given the nature of the State Hospital, the public probably is owed some information about the nature of the patient. Is he or she dangerous, in short?

Spokesman Marci Manley responded:

HIPPA rules restrict what we can release about a patient. At this point, we’ve released the information that we can to keep the public informed while also protecting the privacy rights of the individuals involved.

The forensic unit is used, among others, to assess and treat people with mental illness who’ve allegedly committed a crime or been ordered for treatment as a result of charges.
This can cover a range of people, of course — from someone who’s run down a Ten Commandment monument to something much worse to people who’ve not complied with ordered treatment.

UPDATE: This evening the State Hospital released a copy of the notice sent to law enforcement. It said they were looking for Michelle Messer of Sherwood, a psychologist, driving a blue Mazda. She left with Cory Chapin, 46. Anyone with information is asked to call the hospital police chief, Perry Wyse at 501-686-9212.

Circuit Court records show Chapin was committed to the hospital for restorative treatment following his acquittal in Carroll County on account of mental disease for attempting kidnapping, theft and drug possession charges. He was recommended in December 2015 for continued supervised treatment at a mental health center in Corning, if not the restrictive environment in the State Hospital, because of a history of noncompliance with treatment and drug abuse.

In asking for a warrant to pick him up today, a letter from a state social worker said Chapin’s conditional release was revoked in Clay County Jan. 10 because he’d eloped from the Corning center while on a pass to visit his father in February 2016. He was arrested in Las Vegas Oct. 13 and readmitted to the State Hospital Nov. 2.