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Lawmakers Decry Safety At Calif. Mental Hospitals

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CBS Los Angeles (con't)

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NAPA (AP) — Two California lawmakers decried safety conditions at state-run mental hospitals and urged Gov. Jerry Brown to push for immediate improvements to the security situation at the facilities.

State Sen. Noreen Evans and Assemblyman Michael Allen, in a letter dated Tuesday, called the level of violence at Napa State Hospital and others “unacceptable.”

They represent the districts that include the Napa hospital, where authorities said a patient died Monday while being subdued after a fight.

Another Napa patient is accused of trying to rape a nurse last month. Last year, one Napa worker was slain and another beaten unconscious. Patients face criminal charges in both cases.

The lawmakers said 80 percent of patients at the state’s mental hospitals arrive via the criminal justice system. They called on state mental health officials to update security practices accordingly.

“It is time we have laws, regulations and on-site practices employed that reflect this new reality for our state hospitals that is a far cry from the mission when Napa State Hospital was built more than 137 years ago,” they wrote.

Sheriff’s officials said William Roebling, 47, died on Monday evening in a secure ward at the 1,300-patient Napa facility after attacking another inmate, prompting staff to try to subdue him.

What caused his death is not yet known. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

Investigators are also interviewing witnesses in Roebling’s death, said sheriff’s Capt. Tracey Stuart.

Napa workers have protested what they call the slow pace of reform at the hospital. They protested at a state Department of Mental Health meeting at the hospital last month held to address safety problems.

Recommended changes from the meeting included better training for staff and counseling for patients who are victims of violence and better education of judges to reduce admissions to state mental hospitals.

Workers have asked for better alarm systems, more security, fenced-off areas, increased staffing and other changes.

Napa patient Jess Massey, 37, pleaded not guilty to murder and robbery after Donna Gross, 54, was strangled in October and her money and jewelry were stolen. Her body was found on an outside patio at the hospital.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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