SAN FRANCISCO -- A patient at California's Napa State Hospital was in custody Sunday after allegedly beating a rehabilitation therapist unconscious in a secluded corner of the psychiatric hospital's grounds, staff members said.
The Saturday morning assault left the longtime staff member, a 60-year-old man, hospitalized with four skull fractures, according to a co-worker. The assault comes less than two months after Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician Donna Gross was strangled. A patient is facing murder charges in connection with her death.
Since 2006, the state's mental hospitals have been under a federal court order to improve conditions for patients. Yet safety for both patients and staff has deteriorated markedly at Napa State Hospital over the last year, data show. The other state hospitals subject to the federal consent judgment have also experienced a rise in violence since the state began implementing changes in care, data show.
Staffers began demanding improved safety measures before Gross' slaying but said they received little response from hospital and state mental health administrators. The killing prompted the hospital to revoke grounds passes for patients, most of whom are confined to the facility after committing crimes connected to their illnesses. The hospital also ordered more personal alarms.
Several staff members said an alarm would not have helped in Saturday's attack because the patient and the staffer were alone in an area where it would have been hard to hear.
A Department of Mental Health spokeswoman said that the hospital "immediately added additional measures for escorting patients about the grounds. The incident will continue to be investigated by hospital police."
Staffers, who asked not to be identified because they feared retaliation, identified the patient taken into custody after Saturday's assault as Sean Bouchie, 24. A Napa County sheriff's official could not confirm Sunday evening that Bouchie was in custody, but an employee at a bail bonds service confirmed that he had been booked into Napa County Jail on felony battery charges.
According to a staff member familiar with the incident, Bouchie had assaulted two other people in the last week: a custodian and another patient.
Patients have not been allowed to walk the grounds by themselves since Gross' slaying and are becoming increasingly agitated, several staff members said. On Saturday morning, the rehabilitation therapist decided to take Bouchie for a walk. He was found beaten and in "unrecognizable" condition after Bouchie wandered back inside the hospital alone.
The hospital had left solo escorts up to the "clinical judgment" of staff; now, the staff member said, management is requiring that two staffers escort each patient on the grounds.
The incident has left staffers even more anxious about their safety.
"Violence is starting to increase on the units," the staff member said. "We need hospital police either stationed on the units or doing regular walk-throughs. When do we say enough is enough? These are people's lives. It's not that (management) are not doing anything. But they're just not doing enough."
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