Violence increases at California state hospitals
January 1, 2011
Three Sacramento lawmakers, including state Senator Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) are pressing for significant changes to make state mental hospitals safer. [LA Times]
The new call stems from the slaying of a Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician two months ago, angering hospital employees throughout the California system. Experts say that more than 90 percent of current inmates have committed crimes.
That dramatic trend has brought an increasing level of violence to the hospitals, including vicious attacks on patients and hospital employees. As assaults rose, staff members privately urged state officials to improve security at the hospitals to no avail, documents show.
Blakeslee has met numerous times over the years with employees at Atascadero State Hospital and said he was shocked by the rising degree of danger.
“This level of violence is unacceptable,” Blakeslee said.
The unions that represent hospital employees are working together to craft legislation that calls for high-security units at each state hospital to house the most predatory patients, expedited hearings to involuntarily medicate those who are violent and a streamlined process to transfer dangerous criminals sent for treatment by the corrections system back to prison.
“There needs to be capacity to handle patients who are not completely right for a pure corrections system or a pure therapeutic setting,” Blakeslee said.
In the Napa case, 54-year-old Donna Gross, the first staff member killed in the hospital system in two decades, was strangled. by an inmate.
Blakeslee said he is committed to legislation calling for high-security units.