ASH employees to get personal safety alarms
April 5, 2013
A 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.