Despite Gains, California Mental Hospitals Still Unsafe

Though steps have been taken to make state-operated mental health institutions safer, violent acts are still occurring

According to an article from the Los Angeles Times, despite efforts to improve safety at state-operated mental health institutions, a surprising number of violent acts are still occurring. Safety changes came as a result of a female psychiatric technician being killed by a patient at Napa State Hospital around three years ago.

According to the article, safety has improved since the incident three years ago, though not enough. Due to the institutions’ violent and many times “predatory” residents, an Assembly committee has suggested more steps need to be taken to reduce violence. The committee suggested that better steps be taken toward safety at five different state-operated mental institutions, including the Napa one. The other four include Atascadero, San Bernadino, Norwalk and Coalinga.

So what safety measures are being taken at the Napa facility? According to the LA Times, the campus has a wireless alarm system, more hospital police inside the fenced area, monitoring of who belongs to a gang at the facility and a designated grounds crew to monitor patient behavior. In spite of these safety precautions, the Napa facility recorded 3,000 acts of aggression against patients and staff in 2012.

Perhaps a reason for the violence is the number of patients who have criminal records. According to the article, 90% of the inmates in all five institutions are channeled through the criminal justice system.

The incident that occurred three years ago involved an inmate strangling a technician, Donna Gross.

For more information, visit: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-mental-hospital-safety-20131010,0,2213378.story

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