Alarming increase in attacks on ASH workers

April 8, 2011

Violence at Atascadero State Hospital – Source: Report for U.S. Justice Dept.; California Dept. of Mental Health – Credit: NPR

Violent attacks against employees and patients at Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) has risen 36 percent since 2006 despite a new federal treatment plan that was intended to curb the assaults, according to state and federal documents. NPR

Records show violence increased at three of the four hospitals covered by the Justice Department plan, which was the result of a civil rights investigation that found some serious problems: abuse and neglect of patients; substandard care; and lousy record-keeping.

A two-part series which culminated today on National Public Radio, detailed a series of abuses against state employees who risked their own safety and sometimes life to treat mentally ill patients who in many cases were felons and criminal offenders.

In one of the more extreme incidents which happened last October, Napa State Hospital employee Donna Gross was killed by a patient who has since been charged with her murder. One Napa patient told NPR some of his peers behave like predators making violence and intimidation part of daily life at the hospital.

In one year as many as 1,000 violent incidents were reported at ASH. In some cases victims claimed they were so badly injured or traumatized by the assault that they were approved for permanent disability.

The rise in violence is calling the state’s leadership to action. There are currently about half a dozen measures pending in the sate Legislature which are focused on hospital safety.

Republican Sen. Sam Blakeslee says the Atascadero psychiatric hospital has “an inherently dangerous population.” He has proposed new laws designed to make the hospital safer, including a bill that would make it easier to medicate patients against their will.

“I have constituents, who work in the facility, that are just distraught about their sense of threat and risk and potential injury,” Blakeslee said.

Some critics told NPR, the treatment plan the hospital was forced to adopt after the Justice Department’s investigation drove a wedge between the staff and the patients by requiring massive amounts of documentation which took time away from treatment.

Part of the skepticism about the plan is that patients, many of whom are felons and people that committed violent crimes, are allowed to identify their own goals and interests in choosing treatment options.

California is the only state where the Justice Department has imposed this regimen on hospitals that exclusively treat mentally ill criminals. California’s second such hospital, Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, has also seen violent incidents rise by 36 percent.

California’s agreement with the federal government expires later this year.

Blakeslee said at the end of the day it’s the taxpayers who are spending more than $500 for each day a patient stays in the psychiatric hospital. He questions the effectiveness of the staff’s ability to cure patients amidst the violent environment.

“The public has a right to expect that these individuals will get the treatment to make them less dangerous, because ultimately many of these people will be back on the streets,” Blakeslee says. “They’ll be our neighbors; they’ll be at our grocery stores. Our kids will walk by their homes.”

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I have worked at ASH for over two decades in several “direct patient care” capacities (whoops, I almost

forgot; DOJ Court monitors want us to call them “Individuals;” more PC you know. It would be interesting to know how much the Feds have cost California in the last five years as a result of their “mandates” to

“fix” our Correctional system and Forensic Hospital system. Good luck trying to get that data!

Since day one, the ONLY priority at ASH was to be the first on the block to get into “Compliance” with the

mandated “Recovery Model.” Try as you may, you will not find ANY data to suggest that this “Model”

evidences the criterion of “evidence based practice.” In other words, Dept of Mental Health bought or was forced to buy into an untested (over the long haul) methodology and as a consequence destroy several rain forests with tthe accompanying documentation that Court Monitors require for proof of meeting the goal of “COMPLIANCE.” So,Compliance with an unproven “technology (sic)” has to be achiev-ed at “ANY COST;” including, but certainly not limited to the health and well being of people like me.


““The public has a right to expect that these individuals will get the treatment to make them less dangerous, because ultimately many of these people will be back on the streets,” Blakeslee says. “They’ll be our neighbors; they’ll be at our grocery stores. Our kids will walk by their homes.”

Say what? These guy’s can not be rehabilitaed, there is no known cure and what does “less dangerous” constitue? I lost a very close aquaintance back in 1978 when I was living in Redondo Beach to one these “cured ” guy’s from ASH.

What he and his buddy did to 5 young girls including Cindy Schaefer (who I knew well) is something I have never been able to forget, occassionally I still cry once and a while.

Here, read about Roy Norris and Lawrence Bittaker if you think you have the stomach. Trutv finally did a story about who they were and what they did and how they managed to even be on the streets to begin with:

“it was finally enough to take Roy Norris off the streets. He was confined to Atascadero State Hospital as a mentally disordered sex offender. He spent five years there before being released on probation. Officially he was described as someone who would bring “no further danger to others.”

Not to worry, Achadjian is going to sponsor a study. Way to go, Katcho.

See also New Times article linked below – decades of understaffing, excessive violence and paperwork fetishism obstructing treatment and supervision.

New Times



The legislature must correct abuses at ASH

Management at Atascadero State Hospital has chronically ignored direction to provide adequate staff and has condemned the staff who complain

By David Broadwater

Tried to get your link to come up but it was fixed by the Mod ;-) I do agree with what has been said though. Staff are afraid to speak on the record.

The death of common sense. When politically correct notions get more backing then safety. More patients need to be treated like any criminal would be. That is unless you want more increase in violence as documented. How many patients are actually cured of mental illness in ASH?

Well, if they got rid of the Recreation, Physical, Speech, Occupational, and other therapist and just had the guards, nurses, psych techs, and mental therapists (it is a mental hospital not a rehabilation center) that would help not solve the problems. The facility is a joke for those in the know (as is the prison system). I know nurses that come from out of state, working three/four months, live on the grounds and make so much money they go back home for the next 9 months. What a waste. Lock the offenders up and limit there activities – this is not a resort!

The prison crime rate has dramatically gone up the last few years in all prisons due to cut backs. Now when a nurse gives out meds there’s only one guard where there used to be two. There’s now a big issue at a prison in another state because a 60+ year old nurse was severely beaten because there was only one guard. It’s pretty simple, more cut backs = more crime.

I think SLOBIRD has the right idea. It’s a known fact that a violent sex offender can not be rehabilitated. Offer them castration or life in prison with no frills. It sounds harsh but I don’t see any other way around it, the solution isn’t as harsh as the crimes they commit against the innocent.

If you think about it, these guys are so sick that they would rather spend 10 years in prison where they can fantasize and play with themselves rather than give it up altogether and enjoy their freedom. Of course, if they can’t do what they really want to do, I guess they wouldn’t consider themselves free.

Why do think they originally named it, the Atascadreo State Hospital for the Criminally Insane?

ASH is a complete joke. Mr. Blakeslee should know that the actual cost per patient for a year is around $220,000 a year, that’s more like $600+ a day. For political reasons the “non-hiring, furlough programs sound real good. The sad side is because of those policies there are pyschiatrist that are being paid $600 +/- per hour as contract labor. And then to meet the minimum maning requirements there is an “unlimited” overtime allowance. The bottom line is that the whole place needs to be reformed.

If the danger eally exists, and I think it does, changes should be made immediately and not have to go thru the broken political policy procedures that are currently in place.

I know someone that works in a prison in another state. They told me that the shrinks get paid top dollar but the nurses feel lucky if the docs put in a 15 hour work week. The nurse are furious but there’s nothing they can do. If you blow the whistle then you are in jeopardy of losing your job.