Los Angeles County Approves $7.7 Million To Hire Psychiatric Workers at County Hospitals
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to spend $7.7 million to hire 90 to 100 psychiatric workers to replace unarmed county police officers who work with doctors and nurses to respond to calls involving violent patients at county hospitals, the Los Angeles Times reports.
According to the Times, the decision was motivated in part by a possible loss of federal funding at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center resulting from the facility's treatment of disruptive psychiatric patients. Within the next few weeks, about 15 psychiatric workers trained to work with violent patients are expected to start work at King/Drew. Similarly trained workers also will begin working at other county hospitals.
Losing the federal funds would "eliminate about half of King/Drew's budget and raise the prospect of closing the hospital," the Times reports. County health officials on Tuesday told supervisors that if the funds were lost, about $170 million would be needed to operate the hospital for nine months while it reapplied for federal funding.
Fred Leaf, chief operations officer at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, said such a loss of funding would be "devastating." He added, "We'd have to start cutting in other facilities to fund that if it went on for a long period of time."
Although county DHS officials said hiring the psychiatric workers would not address all of CMS' concerns about treatment of psychiatric patients at King/Drew, Leaf said the move "allows us to erase the blurred lines of involvement of the police officers."
In related news, county DHS officials on Tuesday told the board that the department would have a $1.3 billion budget deficit by July 2008 if spending continues at its current rate (Leonard, Los Angeles Times, 1/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.