Psychiatric Hospitals

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Are California’s Mental Health Hospitals Hazardous Work Environments?

Napa State Hospital where a health care worker was murdered, allegedly by a patient in 2010. (Lisle Boomer: Flickr)

Napa State Hospital where a health care worker was murdered, allegedly by a patient in 2010. (Lisle Boomer: Flickr)

NPR’s Ina Jaffe has filed a series of reports this year about violence in California’s psychiatric hospitals. The spark was the October 2010 murder of a health care worker at Napa State Hospital, allegedly by a psychiatric patient with a violent history.

Today, Jaffe reports that “thousands of violent incidents occur every year” at the state’s mental hospitals, but few are treated as crimes.

Violence in California’s psychiatric hospitals has been increasing, partly because the kind of patients treated at the hospitals has changed. Generally, people with mental illness aren’t especially dangerous. But these days, about 90 percent of the patients in California’s mental hospitals are committed by the criminal justice system. They’ve been found not guilty by reason of insanity, for example, or incompetent to stand trial.

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