A bill that would allow the creation of a separate unit to house the most violent patients at Napa State Hospital and other state psychiatric facilities has reached the governor’s desk.
If Gov. Brown signs the bill into law, patients determined to be prone to violence would be placed in an “enhanced treatment” pilot program, all in an effort to boost safety at the state hospitals.
Under Assembly Bill 1340, patients would be housed in a separate wing, in individual rooms with doors that lock from the outside; they would be re-assessed every three months until they are well enough to return to the general population. After one year, an independent forensic clinician would determine if the patient requires continued treatment at the “enhanced treatment” unit.
The state Legislature passed the bill Aug. 27. Gov. Jerry Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign A.B. 1340 into law.
Napa State Hospital’s “enhanced treatment” pilot program could include 12 beds, according to the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians, one of A.B. 1340’s sponsors.
“We’re just absolutely ecstatic to have AB 1340 reach the governor’s desk,” Coby Pizzotti, a consultant for the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians, said last week.
Labor unions have held rallies to demand the creation of enhanced treatment programs and other measures at Napa State Hospitals and other state psychiatric facilities after a Napa State patient strangled psychiatric technician Donna Gross in October 2010.
State Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, introduced AB 1340 two years ago to allow the Department of State Hospitals, the state agency that manages Napa State and four other sites, to establish and maintain “enhanced treatment” pilot programs beginning July 1, 2015. The pilot programs at each facility would last four years after the first patient is admitted into the special unit. If successful, the pilot programs could become permanent.
“We fully expect the ETP programs to be successful, and will run another bill to either extend or remove the sunset before the current expiration of the existing dates,” Pizzotti said in an email.
This year’s state budget includes $2.1 million to design and plan the enhanced treatment pilot programs.
According to the Department of State Hospitals, there were 4,283 aggressive incidents involving patient on patient and another 3,050 acts against staff members system wide in 2012.
Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, whose district includes Napa, co-authored the original bill that would have made enhanced treatment programs permanent instead of “pilot” programs that could sunset.
“I have mixed-feelings about AB 1340 reaching the Governor’s desk in its scaled-back, pilot version. Testimony and statistics about the constant violent assaults that are occurring in our five State Hospitals are simply unacceptable,” she said.
Yamada nonetheless urged the governor to sign the legislation because “the basic elements of the Enhanced Treatment Program remain in the bill.”
“We cannot afford to continue treating a 21st century forensic state hospital population in 19th and 20th century facilities. Our patients and staff deserve better,” said Yamada, who chairs the Assembly Select Committee on State and Developmental Center Safety.
The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, an organization that represents hospital police officers, has urged Brown to sign A.B. 1340 into law.
“Enhanced treatment units would create a safer environment for providing these patients with appropriate treatment while, at the same time, reducing disruptions to the treatment programs of the rest of the patients,” Alan Wayne Barcelona, CSLEA president, said in an Aug. 28 letter to Brown.
Opponents to the bill included the American Civil Liberties Union which believes the program violates patients’ civil rights.
Also on the governor’s desk A.B. 1960, a bill that, if signed into law, would require state hospitals to to obtain a summary of the patients’ criminal history to assess their risk for violence,.The records would have to be removed from the patients’ files and destroyed 30 days after their discharge.