Blakeslee's bill on contraband at mental hospitals is OK'd by state Legislature

The Legislature has passed a bill designed to strengthen safety at Atascadero State Hospital and other state mental hospitals.

The bill will make providing contraband to patients a misdemeanor. The move will “help curb the violent confrontations that often occur over such items,” according to the bill’s author, Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo.

According to Blakeslee, banned contraband is being smuggled into mental health hospitals to be used as currency by patients, “creating transactions that can often devolve into conflict and violence among patients.”

“Hospital staff are on the front lines, managing some of the most dangerous offenders in the state,” said Coby Pizzotti of the California State Law Enforcement Association. “Contraband has long been a problem in maintaining a safe environment in state hospital facilities.”

Among the items that would be banned: wireless communication devices, tobacco products and currency, except as authorized.

“With the recent escalation in violence and tragic deaths, this is an important step to strengthen workplace safety and better equip staff to manage challenging patients,” Blakeslee said in a press release.

The bill will be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown.