New Bill Aims To Boost Safety at Mental Health, Correctional Facilities
In response to recent incidents of violence against health care workers, Assembly member Mary Hayashi (D-Castro Valley) has introduced a bill (AB 30) designed to improve hospital safety, the Napa Valley Register reports.
The bill comes after a psychiatric technician at Napa State Hospital and a nurse at Contra Costa County's correctional facility died following violent encounters with patients (Todorov, Napa Valley Register, 12/12). Â
On Saturday morning, a rehabilitation therapist at Napa State Hospital suffered skull fractures after an alleged assault by a patient.
Safety Becoming an Issue
Over the past four years, mental hospitals in California have been under a federal court order to improve conditions for patients.
However, recent data show that Napa State Hospital and other state mental hospitals have experienced an increase in violence since the state began making changes (Romney, Los Angeles Times, 12/13).
Occupational safety officials say the number of violent incidents that occur in health care settings might be even higher than reported. They say some health care workers might not report violent events because of a lack of institutional policies on reporting violence and the perception that assaults are part of the job.
A 1993 state law requires hospitals to have a security plan, but it does not cover correctional facilities that provide health care services (Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald, 12/13).
Ross Warren, a consultant for Hayashi, saidÂ the legislation would extend existing workplace safety requirements to correctional medical facilities and mental health centers.
The bill -- which was drafted in consultation with the California Nurses Association and other unions -- would require designated health facilities to:
- Adopt a violence prevention plan;
- Provide annual safety training to employees working in psychiatric wards;
- Report attacks on personnel to law enforcement within 24 hours, instead of within 72 hours; and
- Submit reports to the state LegislatureÂ on acts of violence atÂ a facility.
Hayashi's bill includes no funding for the requirements. It is expected to come before a legislative committee early next year (Napa Valley Register, 12/12).
Police Union Pushing for Safety Measures
In related news, the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association is urging officials to allow police officers to carry guns when working at state mental hospitals. The police officers are not seeking to carry guns on hospital grounds but would like clearance to be armed when patrolling surrounding areas and when transporting patients to funerals and local hospitals.
The union says the change would allow officers to protect health care workers, community members and patients in dangerous situations.
However, the Department of Mental Health opposes allowing the officers to carry guns because it says the move would undermine the therapeutic environment of mental health facilities (Jewett, California Watch, 12/13).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.