Controversy Surrounds Napa State Hospital Again

Workers from Napa State Hospital protest working conditions in January of 2011. Image: J.L. Sousa via and

Napa State Hospital is under fire again, this time because of the murder of a long time employee. Attacks on employees have multiplied in the last 20 years after the hospital started taking criminal offenders. Going from 75 in a six month period (Sep. 2008 to Feb. 2009) to 287 (Sep. 20o9 to Feb. 2010).

Donna Gross, a psychiatric technician who had been working at Napa State Hospital for 14 years, was walking on hospital grounds late in the afternoon when she ran into a patient named Jess Massey.

Like many patients at Napa, Massey had a pass that allowed him to wander on the grounds unsupervised. He allegedly cornered Gross between a couple of buildings, attacked her, stuffed dirt into her mouth — which kept her from screaming — and strangled her.

Massey, who has pleaded not guilty, had a criminal history that included aggravated sexual assault, armed robbery and attempted murder. These days, that’s not so unusual at Napa. [Source]

The former director of Napa State Hospital is serving an almost 250 year sentence for sexual abuse of minors.

But Napa State Hospital is not the only psychiatric hospital in California with these types of attacks. A two part series created by NPR details several instances of attacks on employees.

Ramona Goodman, a former psychiatric worker at Atascadero State Hospital, was attacked by a patient in 2008.

In September 2008, a patient made a routine request: He wanted some clean socks from the laundry room, which was down the hallway.

“So he and I walked down the hall,” she recalls. “And as we were walking together, I had asked him: So you had a really hard time this weekend, and do you want to talk about that later with me? Maybe we can get things worked out?

“He said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t want to talk about it right now.’ ”

And then they reached the laundry room door.

“I got my key in the lock, and I felt his arm come around underneath my chin. And I dropped my chin down as far as I could into my neck so he couldn’t choke me out,” she says. “So we began to struggle. He was hitting me alongside the head as I was biting him. And after a couple of minutes, I realized I was not going to win this fight.”

Eventually, she managed to scream and a co-worker came to her rescue.

Goodman now has two artificial discs in her neck held in place by a titanium plate. Her surgeon told her she can’t work at Atascadero anymore. [Source]

At issue, is a treatment plan enforced in California’s psychiatric hospitals by the Justice Department, which has greatly increased paperwork and reduced the amount of time psychiatrists can work with patients.

California is the only state where the Justice Department has imposed this regimen on hospitals that exclusively treat mentally ill criminals. California’s second such hospital, Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, has also seen violent incidents rise by 36 percent. [Source]

You can read more about this issue on the NPR website:

Part One: At California Mental Hospitals, Fear Is Part Of The Job
Part Two: Violence Surges At Hospital For Mentally Ill Criminals