(COLORADO SPRINGS) — People in the neighborhood surrounding Memorial Hospital Central are voicing concerns about the hospital releasing mentally unstable and homeless patients into a nearby park.

Neighbors said this issue of rowdy patients getting released into Boulder Park, which sits across the street from Memorial Hospital, only escalated over the past three months. The issue came under the spotlight during a community meeting on Tuesday evening, Aug. 15, organized by Memorial Hospital and the Friends of Boulder Park.

Samantha Denaray, a long-time resident of the Colorado Springs neighborhood, passionately recounted her 15-year history in the area and her frequent visits to the park. But that changed at the beginning of the summer when Denaray’s son said he didn’t want to come back to Boulder Park after she says a man began yelling obscenities and throwing rocks and sticks.

“It’s very apparent that it’s people that have been recently discharged from the hospital,” she noted, citing their characteristic belongings such as the “little white bag that says property of Memorial Hospital, hospital wristbands, as well as hospital-issued bootie socks and blankets.”

However, Memorial Hospital’s Director of Behavioral Health, Damian McCabe, countered the claim of an uptick in the past three months, by asserting, “Our volume of patients to our emergency room wouldn’t support that.”

However, Denaray and others at the meeting described witnessing hospital workers allegedly disposing of patients at a nearby bus stop, on multiple occasions.

“I’ve seen people lifted up out of wheelchairs by hospital security and placed on the bus stop bench hitting, screaming, and kicking,” she asserted. “These are people that need help.”

Another neighbor, Kim McClintock, recounted a recent encounter in which the person she was trying to seek help for was sitting in her own feces. McClintock described the woman to be talking to herself, and exhibiting signs of mental distress.

The individual had a hospital wristband and, as McClintock’s friend discovered after calling the police, had been recently discharged from Memorial Hospital.

Memorial Hospital maintained its commitment to proper patient discharge practices. The hospital stated that a thorough medical assessment is conducted before any patient is discharged, and only those who demonstrate the ability to care for themselves are released.

McCabe further elucidated the hospital’s stance.

“Hospitals and health care systems can’t prevent people from making poor decisions for their own well-being… Oftentimes the folks that people see, are folks who choose to make decisions that most of us would not make for ourselves.”

“I don’t understand how a person who’s in her own feces left overnight in a park is capable of making decisions for herself… I don’t understand that,” said McClintock, questioning Memorial Hospital’s policy.

This ongoing issue has exposed gaps in the support system for individuals experiencing homelessness and mental instability. District 5 City Councilwoman, Nancy Henjum, emphasized the need for medical assistance for this demographic.

“That population needs that middle ground. Not a hospital, not a shelter… but some kind of step-down care,” said Henjum.

As tensions escalate, community advocates are calling for increased collaboration between the hospital and the city to address the issue.

“The hospital needs to speak up and work with the city and figure out what to do with these people. We don’t deserve to be dumping people on the streets that can’t take care of themselves. It’s not fair to them. It’s inhumane and it’s not fair to my kid who can’t go to his local park and feel safe,” said Denaray.

Memorial Hospital expressed its willingness to support any city-led initiative aimed at establishing facilities to aid homeless individuals in need of medical assistance after hospital discharge.

In the meantime, the community is now trying to get more people from the neighborhood to talk about this in hopes of instigating change.