SACRAMENTO– Assembly Bill 2144, authored by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), establishing minimum patient-to-clinician ratios within the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) facilities passed the Assembly Committee on Health today with 13 aye votes.
“Improving outcomes while reducing the potential for violence for both patients and staff in California’s State Hospitals is our goal, and I appreciate the committee’s support for this common-sense legislation,” stated Yamada. “With forensic commitments over 90% in this system, the imperative to provide a safe working environment while also ensuring patient safety and meaningful treatment cannot be ignored.”
AB 2144 is a logical response to the shift from a civil case-load to an overwhelmingly forensic or “criminal” state hospital resident population. The increase in forensic commitments resulted from a budget initiative that originated in the 1990s.
A more recent court directive underscores the importance of staff ratios in therapeutic and rehabilitative mental health hospital service systems.
The court directed the state to prohibit the participation of any treatment team member with a case load exceeding 15-to-1 on admission units and, 25-to-1 for other therapy settings.
In consideration of the untimely and tragic murder of Donna Gross at Napa State Hospital in 2010, the Department of State Hospitals has made progress by implementing innovations in collaboration with professional staff that enhance staff-patient safety. However, there is more work to do.
“Recent safety measures are encouraging, but they do not go far enough,” stated Yamada. “Together with logical patient-to-staff ratios, we can take the next step towards adequacy of client treatment needs, and provide professionals with the practice environment they need to do their work without the present-day imminent threat to their safety.”
The comprehensive minimum staff ratios established in AB 2144 supports effective therapy, reduces the threat of violence, and alleviates the burden on local law enforcement agencies.
AB 2144 now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Yamada is the chair of the Assembly Select Committee on State and Developmental Center Safety and represents the Fourth Assembly District, which includes Napa State Hospital.