A coalition of four state employee unions called Safety Now! plans to protest a conference of state officials gathering in Napa today starting at 11 a.m. to discuss workplace safety issues in California's mental health system.
The Safety Now! coalition says in a press release issued Friday that it's tired of the Department of Mental Health "wasting time and money on meetings and immediately implement a list of basic measures to quell the violence against employees and patients" at Napa State Hospital.
Safety Now! is a coordinated effort involving AFSCME Local 2620, SEIU Local 1000, California Association of Psychiatric Therapists and Union of American Physicians and Dentists.
The department is holding an all-day "Violence Reduction Summit" at the Napa facility, department spokeswoman Jennifer Turner said, that will pull together "hospital clinicians, executive management, disability rights staff and legislative staff" to find solutions to the state hospitals' growing problems with patient violence.
Labor organizations were invited. As of Friday afternoon, AFSCME and UAPD had declined. "We'll wait to see Monday who winds up participating," Turner said Friday afternoon.
(Click here for an e-mail from Turner with more details about the summit.
The department has draw heavy criticism from the unions over safety concerns, but the spotlight intensified when psychiatric technician Donna Gross was killed while working at the Napa facility last year. Hospital patient Jess Willard Massey, 37, was arrested and charged with her Oct. 23 murder. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for May 2.
Since Gross's death, at least two other patients have been arrested in connection with attacks on Napa State Hospital staff. Sean Bouchie, 24, allegedly attacked a rehabilitation therapist on Dec. 11, leaving the victim with multiple fractures. Bouchie was declared incompetent to stand trial and returned to Napa State Hospital.
Another patient, Jesus Hernandez Tobar , 30, has been charged with intent to commit rape and two counts of sexual battery in a March 2 attack on an unnamed hospital staffer. CAPT has said the victim is a union member.
IMAGE: Courtesy Safety Now!