California state mental hospital workers face violence, forced overtime, report finds

The California Legislature should examine factors contributing to high employee turnover in the state's mental hospitals, including violence against employees and long hours, an Aug. 12 analysis from the California Legislative Analyst's Office recommends.

According to the report, employees contend with on-the-job violence and forced overtime. From the beginning of 2020 through June 2022, patients attacked employees an average of six times per day, according to the report. 

The reliance on mandatory overtime is also consistent, with the administration reporting more than 40,000 mandatory overtime hours each year since 2018. Furthermore, the pandemic's effects on the Department of State system compounded problems and resulted in mandatory overtime increasing significantly beginning in 2020. 

"The Legislature may wish to better understand the issues that contribute to the recruitment and retention challenges of psychiatric technicians and to understand what factors it should consider when determining if the proposed agreement provides a reasonable level of compensation to address those challenges, especially in the context of rising inflation, the pandemic, and dangerous working conditions," the report says. 

The California Department of State employs nearly 13,000 people, with about 7,000 psychiatric technicians providing the bulk of front-line care. As of 2020, 22 percent of psychiatric technician jobs at state hospitals and prisons were vacant, according to the report.

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