BILL TO STRENGTHEN SECURITY AT PSYCH WARDS COULD LEAD TO GUNS AT HOSPITALS
By Steven Tavares
Does Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi's latest piece of do-good legislation give an opening for officers at hospitals to carry firearms? The bill, introduced last week, would strengthen existing state law protecting hospital workers from the dangers of working with patients at, among other places, state institutions. The impetus for the bill, AB 30, came after a nurse was strangled to death last October at the Napa State Hospital. Another attack of a Napa State Hospital worker by a patient was reported Monday.
One seemingly innocuous line in the legislation stands out. "This bill requires the hospital to adopt specified security policies as part of the plan." While broad in scope one clue to its practical meaning comes from a report at the investigative web site, California Watch.
The death of psychiatric technician Donna Gross may give various correctional groups a chance to arm their members with guns. The report says groups like the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association are not pushing for weapons on hospital campuses, but rather for patrolling surrounding areas and transporting psych patients to and from facilities. “It’s a good bill,” said the union's legislative liaison.
Medical professionals, of course, are not in favor of the sight of firearms comingling within the therapeutic environment of treating patients. Many at facilities like Napa State Hospital are deemed unfit to stand trial or guilty of crimes by reason of insanity.
Among the features of the bill, include lowering the timeframe hospitals are required to report instances of violence to authorities to 24 hours. Current law requires only a 72-hour period. A yearly report detailing incidence of violence at state hospitals would be required starting in 2014, if passed, and annual training would be given to hospital workers regularly assigned to psychiatric units, although the bill does not contain any funding.