State Mental Hospital Issues in Spotlight at Assembly Panel Hearing
On Tuesday, California Department of Mental Health officials said they are making slow progress in hiring more security and direct care providers for state mental hospitals, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Officials made the comments at a hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on State Hospital Safety.
Assembly member Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa), a former psychiatric nurse, convened the select committee to consider solutions to violent conditions at facilities.
More than 90% of mental health patients in the state's five psychiatric facilities have been arrested or convicted for crimes, according to Cliff Allenby, acting director of the mental health department (Romney, Los Angeles Times, 8/24).
Although the federal government ordered reforms to improve conditions in the hospitals in 2006, many mental health care facilities have experienced an increase in violence among patients and staff (Romney, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/22). For example, a psychiatric technician at Napa State Hospital was strangled 10 months ago (Los Angeles Times, 8/24).
Earlier this year, Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley lifted a hiring freeze at the facilities to address safety concerns, but a number of positions have not been filled ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/22).
Details of the Hearing
At the meeting, hospital workers said that violent incidents force them to aid patients or other staff members and take timeÂ away from their duties.
Allenby said the state should reconsider staffing ratios, improve the safety of facility grounds and create special units for the most aggressive patients (Los Angeles Times, 8/24).
Plans To Improve Safety
In a statement, Allen noted that the committee is considering transferring certain patients out of hospitals and calling for more effective treatments that could reduce length of stay.
The panel also is examining the high cost of workers' compensation claims and the estimated savings if working conditions were safer ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/22).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.