07/27/05 — Cherry reviews policies

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Cherry reviews policies

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 27, 2005 1:51 PM

State officials are continuing a review of admission and weapons policies at Cherry Hospital and other state mental institutions after a shooting that left a patient dead and a worker wounded.

Clifton Gentry, 27, was being admitted to the hospital Friday afternoon when he grabbed a gun from an Onslow County deputy and shot healthcare worker William Shelton Denning, wounding him. Gentry then killed himself.

Denning is recuperating at Wayne Memorial Hospital after undergoing surgery Friday.

Mark Van Sciver, deputy director of public affairs with state Department of Health and Human Services, said his office was in the process of reviewing security policies at the state's mental hospitals even before Friday's shooting.

"About a month ago, we had begun talking to all hospitals as to what they do with all policies," he said Tuesday.

Cherry was operating under an existing policy which allowed law enforcement officers to carry weapons into the facility during the admission of patients, Van Sciver said. That policy is likely to change, he said.

"It will probably go to the same policy that Umstead and Broughton adopted," he said, referring other facilities that do not permit weapons in their reception areas.

"Basically, we have other hospitals whose policy is that there's no firearms," Van Scriver said. "Law enforcement secures them and uses other means to maintain order."

Van Sciver said the state will likely decide to implement a uniform policy throughout the system.

"We're talking about dealing with different types of patients," he said. "It's not like a normal hospital situation, so they're always looking at things like restraints and seclusion."