The new administrator at the Hawaii State Hospital is stepping into a facility that's already under investigation and soon to be targeted by a class-action lawsuit.
William May is aware of the issues, but has experience in difficult circumstances.
Two years ago, he became the superintendent for Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo -- where he walked into a public crisis there.
“They had several deaths, they had a suicide, they had a death of a patient in restraints, there were many investigations,” May said. “A lot of it was just a change in the culture.”
Now May is going down a similar road again. Taking on a job at Hawaii's state hospital means taking on an investigation into everything from allegations of patients attacking staff, overtime abuse, mismanagement and nepotism.
“It's all interrelated,” he said.
With only one week on the job, May said he is unwilling to come to conclusions, but already sees the cracks in the system.
“Every building on the ground at the Hawaii State Hospital has blind spots,” he said. “It's spread out. It's big, which leads to gaps in observation."
May said a new building is in the works.
And he said he's formulating plans to speed up the hiring process.
There are currently 53 nursing staff vacancies.
May is also preparing to retrain staff to better protect themselves, not only physically, but through education and planning -- as he did in Colorado.
“It's not just how do I block a punch, but how do I not get into a situation where a patient is going to even consider punching me,” May said. “That constant monitoring, keeping your finger on the pulse of every patient, really produced dramatic improvement.
Right now, several staffers who said they were attacked by patients are preparing to file a class-action lawsuit.
“At the end of the day, my job is to provide the safest, most therapeutically-appropriate setting possible for the staff and the patients...and I will,” May said.