For several years UAPD members and staff have been working to improve employee and patient safety at the Department of State Hospitals (DSH). Alongside other unions representing DSH workers, UAPD has been promoting legislation aimed at curbing violence and assaults inside DSH. Several of those bills were passed into law this year. This is a major victory, and a significant step forward in our campaign to curb violence against doctors and other medical professionals. It’s also an example of what can be accomplished when doctors, the UAPD and AFSCME legislative departments, and our professional staff work together as we have done here.
These are the DSH-related bills signed into law by Jerry Brown last week:
- Assembly Bill 1340 was authored by Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian and co-sponsored by UAPD and AFSCME. With the passage of this bill, DSH must create enhanced-treatment programs to house patients with the most aggressive and dangerous behaviors. The residences will feature private rooms, higher staffing, and targeted treatment to assist this high-risk population. A rigorous hearing and ombudsman process will ensure that patients’ rights are upheld at the same time safety is maintained. The law goes into effect January 1, 2015.
- Assembly Bill 1960, authored by Assemblymember Henry Perea, will allow licensed mental-health personnel to access and review criminal-history information for patients in their facilities’ care. This change allows mental-health professionals to better tailor programs and services toward patients’ individual behavioral needs.
- Assembly Bill 2186, by Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, allows involuntary medication orders to follow patients to and from the state-hospital system, creating more consistent care during facility transfers. According to the author, “AB 2186 ensures continuity of treatment for IST (incompetent to stand trial) patients as they transition between state hospitals and county jails, and streamlines reporting requirements to ensure that the individual is provided with appropriate, necessary, and beneficial mental health treatment that is consistent with their due process rights.”
Another bill, Assembly Bill 2144 by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, failed to reach the governor’s desk due to legislators’ cost concerns. The bill would have increased state hospitals’ minimum staff-to-patient ratios, which doctors continue to say is key to safety.
To get to these bills passed, state hospital professionals shared personal stories of their own assaults and called for the bills’ passage at recent rallies and State Capitol hearings. The governor’s signatures on the bills come a few weeks before the four-year anniversary of the murder of Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician Donna Gross, who was killed by an NSH patient in an outdoor area of the hospital. Many DSH doctors became active in the safety campaign at the time of Donna’s death. UAPD doctors will continue to work together, both in Sacramento and at the facilities, until DSH becomes a safe place to work.