Regarding Colin Rigley’s Dec. 2 article “A history of violence”: I’m a little concerned that some relevant information was omitted from the article.
I’m a senior psychiatric technician at Atascadero State Hospital and have worked there for nearly a decade. While I don’t disagree that there has been an increase in violence at the facility, it does have to be noted the population of patients we treat has changed in the last five years. Previously, ASH was the primary treatment facility for sexually violent predators, a group of patients who were far less aggressive toward peers and staff. Starting in 2006, there was a change in treatment styles, and the primary population evolved into a group of patients who are far more psychiatrically unstable.
At that same time, the state of California began restricting the number of staff allocated to the facilities in a poorly executed attempt to cut funding to the Department of Mental Health.
It should also be noted that Atascadero State Hospital is still considered to be among the leading forensic psychiatric facilities in the world and, as such, is able to recruit some of the most skilled clinicians available. Working with the patients at the facility is dangerous, but the staff who work there are providing care for a population of men the community has turned their back on. If people were better informed on the treatment offered, perhaps there would be more support of the staff and less animosity toward the establishment.
Ed. note: Though Colin Rigley’s story didn’t get into specifics, it did note that one possible explanation for rising violence—or the perception of rising violence—at Atascadero State Hospital is the change in the facility’s patient population and methodology tracking since around 2006