State Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, continues to work on legislation to increase staff and patient safety at state mental hospitals. His bills came after he toured Atascadero State Hospital in February.
The efforts target possession of contraband items and using body fluids as weapons, and also streamline when and how patients can be medicated.
“We have spent years to elevate the issue of state hospital safety, and yet the state has failed to act,” Blakeslee said in a written statement Thursday. “With the recent escalation in violence and tragic deaths, policies to strengthen workplace safety and better equip staff to manage challenging patients must be implemented now.”
The bills include his work at co-authoring legislation that would make it a misdemeanor to bring certain contraband items into state hospitals. The Assembly has until September to vote on it.
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Another co-authored bill would let hospital staff decide when a patient should be medicated. The Senate could hear it in the coming months.
The bill would protect staff from violent patients who can refuse the medications needed to stabilize their conditions. Federal reforms introduced in 2006 have contributed to the severe limitations staff have in medicating and physically restraining patients at four of the five state hospitals, including ASH.
A third bill would make it a felony for state hospital patients to use body fluids as weapons because that exposes employees to diseases such as hepatitis. Such action is now a misdemeanor at state hospitals.
The bill was introduced last year but failed to clear early review. Blakeslee is working to reintroduce it for consideration. It’s currently on hold, Blakeslee’s office said.
Blakeslee also wants to “increase the hospitals’ power” to send patients back to prison who are violent and unresponsive to treatment. This could help protect employees and other patients from attacks, as well as open up more beds.