Lawmakers in these 6 states move to combat violence against healthcare workers

Violence against healthcare workers is a subject recently highlighted by healthcare organizations across the U.S., which are asking patients to show kindness and patience to staff. It's also picking up steam among state legislators, who are introducing bills to protect healthcare staff. 

Lawmakers in some states are already acting to better protect healthcare workers. Here are initiatives in six states: 

Kansas

Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase criminal penalties for battery of a hospital employee and make the act a class A misdemeanor. 

House Bill 2620, which was introduced in the state House Feb. 7, would essentially provide the same penalties for attacking a healthcare worker as attacking a police officer or other first responder, according to The Kansas City Star

Utah

Utah lawmakers have passed House Bill 32 relating to the assault of an owner, employee or contractor of a healthcare facility. The legislation, which passed the state House and Senate in February, enhances penalties for assault or threat of violence against healthcare facility workers.

Under the legislation, assault or threat of violence against such workers while they are performing their duties is a class A misdemeanor, and it is a third-degree felony if the perpetrator "acts intentionally or knowingly" and the attack "causes substantial bodily injury."

The bill still awaits the governor's signature. 

Michigan

Two bills have been introduced in Michigan: House Bill 5682 and House Bill 5084. House Bill 5682 states that if someone assaults an emergency room worker, and the violation happened while the worker was performing official duties, then the perpetrator would be guilty of a misdemeanor with maximum punishment of 93 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.

A person who assaults an emergency room worker without a weapon and inflicts serious harm without the intent to kill would be punishable to a maximum one year in prison, a $2,000 fine, or both.

A person who assaults an emergency room worker with a dangerous weapon without the intent to murder could receive up to four years in prison, a $4,000 fine, or both.

House Bill 5084 states that an employer would be able to post a sign that says it's a felony to assault a person who works in an emergency room and that the person is allowed to perform his or her duties.

The bills are sponsored by state Reps. Mike Mueller and Ben Frederick and are currently under consideration in the house.

Maryland

In Maryland, House Bill 0267 is being considered, which would make it illegal for someone to threaten a public health official with the intent to intimidate, interfere with or impede that worker from fulfilling official duties. That person would be guilty of a misdemeanor and could be imprisoned for up to 90 days, a fine of up to $500 or both.

The bill is sponsored by 10 delegates in the state and is currently under consideration in the House.

Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Assembly passed legislation Feb. 23 that would make it a felony to threaten a healthcare worker. 

The bill makes it a felony to commit battery against or threaten a healthcare worker "if the battery or threat is in response to an action taken by the healthcare provider in his or her official capacity, or in response to something that happened at the healthcare facility." It expands on an existing 2020 law that made battery against a nurse, an emergency medical care provider, or an individual working in an emergency department a felony.

The measure passed in the Wisconsin Senate and needs to be signed by Gov. Tony Evers before becoming law.

New Jersey

Two New Jersey assembly leaders announced Feb. 24 they will introduce legislation that would establish threats against healthcare workers as a "disorderly persons offense." Those who threaten healthcare workers could be imprisoned for up to six months and/or receive a fine of up to $1,000.

Additionally, the bill would mandate an anger management course or 30 days of community service for those who attack healthcare workers.

The bill — called the "Health Care Heroes Violence Prevention Act" — is being introduced by Majority Leader Louis Greenwald and Sen. Troy Singleton.

Updated March 9.

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