ASH employees to get personal safety alarms

April 5, 2013

ash2A California Assembly budget subcommittee unanimously approved funding Wednesday for safety alarms that Atascadero State Hospital employees will wear around their necks and use when attacked by patients. [Tribune]

The safety alarms are small Wi-Fi devices that notify police and security officials in under 10 seconds and provide the location of the attack. The alarm system is already in place at Napa State Hospital and could be in place at ASH, as well as Coalinga State Hospital, as soon as this fall.

The budget subcommittee approved a $16.6 million request for the ASH and Coalinga alarms, but the spending measure requires further approval before it can gain Governor Jerry Brown’s signature in June. Overall, the updating of security alarms at all state hospitals is projected to cost $47.9 million.

“Some of these facilities are over 100-years-old, so we’re beefing up security where needed, which also enhances efficiency,” Democratic Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell said.

A 2010 strangling of a psychiatric technician in the courtyard of Napa State Hospital prompted the statewide improvements to the alarm system.

ASH, too, has had employees injured by patients. Last November, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health fined ASH $27,000 for frequent patient assaults on employees. Since the fine, the frequency of patient attacks on employees has not declined.

Department of State Hospitals Chief Deputy Director Kathy Gaither said at Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing that the new alarm system at Napa State Hospital has dramatically improve safety.

“Are we done fixing all our problems? No,” Gaither said. “But, are we on the path? Yes we are.”

One complaint among employees did surface about the safety alarm necklaces at Napa State Hospital. Employees worried that patients would use the necklaces to strangle them.

So, the state is converting the new safety alarms for all of the hospitals into lanyards that break apart in three places. The DSH estimates that it will have to replace one third of the lanyards annually.


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This appears to be nothing more than a band-aid used to stop the hemorrhaging of violence that characterizes this sort of incarceration.

These are not patients, they are violent criminals.. As such, they need to be locked up behind bars.

Like medical alert alarms, there is one the can fit on the wrist like a watch.

“One complaint among employees did surface about the safety alarm necklaces at Napa State Hospital. Employees worried that patients would use the necklaces to strangle them.”

This was my first thought after I read the first paragraph. The procedures that ASH SHOULD have in place should be no different than CMC or any other prison.

They had similar things when I toured the place over 25 yrs ago.

If our State Hospitals used the same budget critieria as Caltrans, even with the high price of electricity and APCD fees, the electic chair would be safer and smoking affordable.

As I recall back in the 1980s staff had a (by today’s standards) primitive alarm to do just this. What happened? This is obviously necessary but the price tag sure seems high. Maybe these MDVOs (mentally disordered violent offenders) need to be treated differently, ie., confined more. The staff knows this is a very dangerous job but the deck seems to be stacked against them.

It is ridiculous that they don’t have a system like this to begin with. If I were planning safety in a mental hospital, that would probably have been one of the first things I would have set up.

What is even more ridiculous is that now that they are getting them, they are going to pay $16 MILLION dolllars for them. Are you KIDDING me?! They could have had this years ago, with RF technology, for pennies on the dollar.

Even when they (the public sector) almost stop being idiots, it’s just because they’re about to be bigger idiots.

A whistle would be a lot cheaper. Oh yea, silly me, this is government buying and I forgot about all the bribes and payoffs that need to be paid off first to the politicians, unions, and power players so maybe $16 million is the right price. Better yet. lock their arses’s up, let then out for therapy and when they prove they can be trusted and have earned a right to a privilege, they can get out into a social area. These are criminals and mentally ill on top of it, lock them up until they are better and then you will see quick recovery and better results, not difficult thought process. This is all a sham on the ratepayers, AGAIN!

Hey, a whistle and a cattle prod would be a lot safer than what they have now–which is nothing.

They already have a system. Just like most people posting here, the public is not aware of it.

The current system at ASH uses individually worn ultrasonic transmitters similar to small pagers, which get activated when staff is attacked by the “patients”. I won’t go into details, but it is actually a pretty slick system which allows security to respond to the exact location of the attack.

The approval of a new system appears to be a reaction to the bad publicity about staff attacks and a

good opportunity to fill someones pockets.

This will show that they are doing something about this problem, and at the same time is an opportunity to get more money from the people screaming to give them something “safer than what they have now–which is nothing”.

In the meantime, the public procurement specifications will be written in such a manner, that only

one company qualifies.

The new system with the transmitters around their necks ( instead of belt worn transmitters) will be

as effective as the old one, as neither prevents attacks on staff. Few years down the road, when everyone screams “Give them some safety”, they will replace the neck worn transmitters with belt worn units, because the neck units will be deemed unsafe……..