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Napa State Hospital Workers Rally for Safer Working Conditions

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Rachel Dornhelm/KQED

Workers protest at Napa State Hospital

Doctors, nurses, social workers and custodians at Napa State Hospital came together at a rally outside the hospital gate Wednesday.  The workers at the state mental health facility are asking for safer working conditions after one nurse was murdered last year and a rehabilitation therapist was badly beaten.  

Speakers called for a number of improvements, including an increased police presence.  Zach Hatton, a recreation therapist, said there are currently 75 hospital police, but the force is equipped to staff up to 85.  Hatton says the real need is for 130 or 150.  

Rehabilitation therapist Ingrid Lacey was concerned about how far away the police are located.  "Sometimes it can take 10-15 minutes for police to arrive because they're stationed outside of the secure-treatment area," Lacey said.  

Others expressed concern about the uptick in patients being transferred directly from the criminal justice system.  One RN said the increase in violence was directly related.  

State Senator Noreen Evans has sponsored a bill SB60 that aims to address the safety concerns at mental hospitals. A representative from Evans' office spoke at Wednesday's rally reassuring workers that Sacramento is paying attention, and working to make mental hospitals a safer place.

However the bill is still in preliminary stages, and is set to go to committee in the spring.   

A spokesperson for the Department of Mental Health, which oversees Napa State Hospital, said that the agency was in discussions about a more restrictive grounds policy for patients at the facility in light of recent events.

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