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Jail for Napa State Hospital patients who commit crimes

For now, Napa State Hospital patients who commit crimes while under hospital care will be forced to Napa County jail, according to officials. This comes in lieu of a Napa County bill that has stalled in the legislature which would have seen patients accused of a crime staying in the hospital.

This flies in the face of long-term care for the patients, many of who are mentally ill.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Kacho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, passed the Assembly earlier this year, yet did not make it out of the Senate Health and Public Safety committees. As a result, the bill has evolved into a two-year process, which allows it to be brought back into 2014 legislative session, according to Achadjian’s chief of staff.

September 13 marks the final day for the Senate and Assembly to pass bills in this session. Achadjian, who also oversees the district which includes Atascadero State Hospital, introduced the bill as a way to create enhanced treatment units at all five state hospitals.

Assembly Bill 1340 was a direct answer from the county which had lobbied to stop housing patients who commit crimes on hospital grounds from going to jails it considered ill-equipped for their care. The bill would ensure these patients received adequate care in the hospitals’ treatment units, particularly for those who are severely and mentally ill. Experts say that a patient’s behavior deteriorates when they are held in jail cells as opposed to clinical environments.

In the meantime, California Disability Rights groups maintained that placing patients in either a jail or an enhanced treatment unit would be counterproductive to their treatment, simply because their behavior is a disability. Further claims from The California Attorneys for Criminal Justice suggested the enhanced treatment units might result in increased costs and require expensive special housing and treatment.

One of the Board of Supervisors’ legislative subcommittee members suggested that additional steps need to be taken across the board from the counties, the state hospital workers and patients’ disability rights advocates in order to satisfy the needs of these patients.

Those who are compromised, whether they are incarcerated or in state-run hospitals, also have legal rights. Be sure you or your loved ones know what those rights are, and consult a qualified attorney with questions you may have.

Source:  Napa Valley Register, “Bill to keep Napa State inmates out of county jail has stalled” Peter Jensen, Aug. 29, 2013

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