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New law aims to keep contraband out of state mental hospitals

August 31, 2011 |  6:15 pm

Napa State Hospital workers rally for safer conditions. 
Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed into law a bill that makes it a misdemeanor to deliver contraband such as tobacco products or wireless devices to state mental hospital patients.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) and coauthored by Assemblyman Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa), is among several introduced this year to address high levels of violence in the psychiatric facilities.

Contraband -- including illegal drugs and paraphernalia covered by existing law -- circulate on the black market inside the facilities and contribute to conflicts as well as the bribing and beating of vulnerable patients by more dominant peers. Contraband generally enters the facilities through staff, visitors or packages.

"With the number of violent attacks continuing to escalate at state hospitals, it is our job to develop policies to safeguard patients and staff," Blakeslee said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and my colleagues in the Legislature to promote this and other policy measures to ensure state hospitals are operated as safely and effectively as possible."

The new law also covers the delivery of unauthorized currency. Violators will face fines up to $1,000.

Other legislation sponsored by Allen that would speed up the involuntary medication of certain violent patients at the state hospitals is pending.

The bills are part of a broader effort by lawmakers to address hospital violence 10 months after the  murder of a Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician.


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-- Lee Romney in San Francisco  

Photo: Napa State Hospital workers rally for safer working conditions.

Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times