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Violence at CA mental hospitals: ’This is the norm’

NPR, July 21, 2011

Thousands of assaults occur each year at California's state psychiatric hospitals. Last October, a patient allegedly murdered a staffer at Napa State Hospital. Employees there demonstrated, demanding greater safety. Now, the protests have spread to Metropolitan State Hospital near Los Angeles, where about 100 workers recently spent a broiling hot lunch hour marching in front of the place where they work. Psychiatrist Laura Dardashti, who has worked at Metropolitan since 2006, says that when she started, co-workers told her, "It's not if you get assaulted -- it's when." Her turn came about a year and a half ago. Here's what state statistics say about "the norm" at Metropolitan: Last year, staff members were attacked by patients more than 1,300 times -- nearly double the number of assaults from the year before. Meanwhile, patients assaulted other patients at a rate of almost seven times a day.