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Psychiatric staff more worried after new federal regulations

When many people in Denver take a job at a hospital, they most likely do not expect that they will be injured or killed by patients. Although psychiatric staff at a Colorado mental health hospital may realize that there are inherent risks that come with working with people who have mental health issues, there should still be protections that keep them safe from harm.

After federal regulators started looking into patients' conditions within these hospitals, however, many psychiatric staff members are rightfully concerned that they will become victims of a patient attack and require temporary disability benefits. In some situations, the government has ordered hospitals to stop providing heavy sedatives or restraining some of the most violent of patients, leaving many patients relatively free to act out.

One of the most tragic examples of how the federal regulations have injured hospital workers was in October 2010. A psychiatric technician was walking across the hospital grounds when a patient who had been hospitalized for stabbing and seriously injuring a stranger approached her. The man had been diagnosed with sociopathy, but was allowed on the hospital grounds without an escort.

The patient approached the technician and robbed her of her jewelry, $2 and a pack of gum. In a panic, the patient then strangled the woman in an effort to prevent her from telling on him. Tragically, the employee died.

There is no telling what could happen to a psychiatric staff member on the job, but Denver employees should not have to fear for their life just because they work in a mental health facility. When an accident does happen, however, a workers' compensation attorney can help to explain what options are available.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "California state mental hospitals plagued by peril," Lee Romney and John Hoeffel, April 15, 2012

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