The Los Angeles Times and other papers are now reporting on the alarming increase of patient attacks on Napa State Hospital staff. These accelerating assaults culminated in the brutal murder of a well-liked and respected Psychiatric Technician. It occurred just two weeks ago in a NSH courtyard during daylight hours.
DMH claims it can make NSH a safer place by running a shuttle between its parking lot and patient care areas. Also, it has temporarily suspended the “grounds pass” system which allows many patients, including convicted criminals, to roam free. It is not nearly enough.
The patient-on-staff violence in California’s DMH hospitals, especially at Napa, has multiple causes. Most obvious is that over 90% of Napa’s 1100 patients have a criminal background. Recognizing this, staff has lobbied DMH administration since 2006 for higher security units where violent patients can be treated safely.
There are other means: providing effective alarms for staff, increasing both community and hospital police presence, using video surveillance, creating legislation that will return violent criminals without significant mental illness back to jail or state prisons.
It is now DMH’s time to respond with swift remedies and definite implementation. Otherwise, more deaths to staff will occur.
Stuart A. Bussey, M.D., J.D.
President, Union of American Physicians and Dentists