I have worked at Atascadero State Hospital since 2002, and while I acknowledge that the hospital faces difficulties that are both common to many large bureaucracies and unique to an institution that serves mentally ill men who have a history of violence, I believe that the hospital administration is deeply concerned about patient violence, staff and patient safety, and working conditions.
The patients served at Atascadero State Hospital are treated at the hospital because they have a history of psychiatric instability and violent behavior and cannot be managed in other facilities or the community. They are, naturally, at high risk for engaging in violent behavior during their hospitalization. In my experience, administrators are well aware of safety concerns and are consistently interested in learning more about the specialized issues of violence prevention in a forensic mental health facility and managing patient care to minimize risk to patients and to staff.
The administration has established programs to assess and respond to patterns of assault and to better manage patient violence. In my experience, administrators are committed to improving the quality of the care provided to patients, as well as the working conditions for staff.
It is certainly true California law places limitations on the facility’s ability to proactively manage some situations, and legislative changes could remedy these concerns (“The legislature must correct abuses at ASH,” April 7). I believe the hospital’s executive director has been proactive in pushing for legislative change to provide increased protections for staff and to make the hospital safer for hospital staff and patients.