NAPA, Calif.--()--Employees, patient advocates, lawmakers and concerned community members gathered at seven state facilities this evening to remember Napa State Hospital Psychiatric Technician Donna Gross on the second anniversary of her death.
“We've made significant safety improvements over the past two years, but we continue to admit violent and predatory patients and attacks still occur regularly”
Gross was murdered on Napa State Hospital grounds on the dark, rainy evening of Oct. 23, 2010, by patient Jess Willard Massey. Massey was sentenced in 2011 to 25 years to life in a state prison.
Hundreds of event attendees across the state held candles and laid flowers before photo memorials of Gross. The events also featured prayers and processions as participants sought to light up the night in her memory. State lawmakers at the Napa event – Assemblymember Michael Allen and Assemblymember Mariko Yamada – came to offer their continued support for those living and working in California’s state hospitals.
Two years after Gross’ death, employees say changes are beginning to take place in the state’s five forensic hospitals for Californians with mental illnesses. A new personal alarm system began rolling out at Napa State Hospital on August 14, replacing the antiquated system that did not work outdoors, where Gross was killed. The Napa system is serving as the pilot program for other new state hospitals’ systems, which are forecast to all be replaced by the summer of 2014. Grounds-patrol teams – modeled after Patton State Hospital’s 20-year-old first-response group – now are active throughout Napa and Metropolitan State Hospitals’ acres of fenced yards, offering increased security for patients and workers alike. Napa also has increased internal security with a new police substation that has dramatically improved officers’ response times in emergencies.
Nevertheless, even as critical safety improvements move forward, violent assaults and injuries at state hospitals continue. Event participants reaffirmed their commitment to work in Donna Gross’ name toward a safer environment for those living and working in California’s state facilities. Employees shared memories of Gross as well as personal stories of their own injuries, and called on the Department of State Hospitals to open enhanced-treatment units for all five hospitals’ most violent patients.
“We've made significant safety improvements over the past two years, but we continue to admit violent and predatory patients and attacks still occur regularly,” said Linda Monahan, a Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician who also serves as Napa Chapter president for the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians. “We desperately need enhanced-treatment units to reduce the number of attacks on patients and staff.”
Atascadero State Hospital is the only facility that currently has such a unit.
In addition to the five DSH hospitals, employees at Fairview and Porterville Developmental Centers held events to commemorate Gross.