Less than two months after a psychiatric technician was strangled to death, another staff member has been beaten unconscious at Napa State Hospital, California's largest psychiatric hospital. Already abysmal staff morale is sinking lower as tensions rise among the captive patients, whose privileges have been curtailed since October's slaying.
Four years ago, the U.S. Attorney General's Office negotiated a consent decree mandating sweeping changes aimed at improving patient care and reducing suicides and assaults at the troubled hospital. A federal probe had revealed widespread civil rights violations, including generic "treatment" and overuse of seclusion and restraints. Napa, the only state psychiatric hospital in Northern California, houses defendants undergoing competency restoration treatment and those found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Earlier this year, another scandal hit the hospital, when its executive director was arrested on 35 felony charges stemming from the alleged molestation of a foster son. He was suspected of molesting at least four other boys going back to the 1970s.
Lee Romney of the Los Angeles Times, who has provided the best coverage of California's troubled state hospital system over the past few years, reported that patients at Napa are increasingly agitated in the wake of greater restrictions on their movement, exacerbating an already bleak picture:
Since 2006, the state's mental hospitals have been under a federal court order to improve conditions for patients. Yet safety for both patients and staff has deteriorated markedly at Napa State Hospital over the last year, data show. The other state hospitals subject to the federal consent judgment have also experienced a rise in violence since the state began implementing changes in care.In case you need a job, by the way, the hospital is hiring.