Board learns about new legislationState Hospital Superintendent Alex Schweitzer reported on legislative decisions that will affect the safety of those working in the secure services area of the State Hospital during the quarterly meeting of the hospital Governing Board Monday.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
State Hospital Superintendent Alex Schweitzer reported on legislative decisions that will affect the safety of those working in the secure services area of the State Hospital during the quarterly meeting of the hospital Governing Board Monday.
Schweitzer said legislation was passed to make it a Class C felony to assault workers in the secure services unit during the normal course of their jobs. This new law makes the penalty for attacking a worker in the sex offender unit equal to the penalty for assaulting a law enforcement or corrections officer in his or her line of work.
Class C felonies are punishable by a maximum of five years in prison.
“We believe this will make a difference,” he said.
Schweitzer also noted that violence within the unit had decreased with additional recreation areas and staff training.
“We’ve seen a real decrease in violence there,” he said. “The addition of sensors on the fence will create a safe and secure recreational environment for patients of this unit. In addition, training and enhanced safety and security measures have resulted in significant decreases in violence and acting out behavior on this unit.”
The board also discussed the budget appropriated to them by the Legislature.
“The Legislature appropriated $68.6 million for the State Hospital,” Schweitzer said. “That includes $58.2 million for traditional services and $10.4 million for secure services.”
Secure services is sometimes referred to as the sex offender unit and currently houses 52 people. The base budget for traditional services includes $3.2 million for 62 capital improvement projects including repairs to the coal-fired boiler, roof repairs on several buildings and street and sewer repairs, among other projects.
“All in all it covers the needs we have in taking care of our patients,” Schweitzer said.
The staffing level for the 2009 through 2011 biennium remains the same as the previous budget period with 381 full-time equivalent employees in the traditional services portion of the hospital and 85.5 full-time equivalents in the secure services area.
The appropriation also includes a 5 percent pay raise for employees in both years of the two-year budget cycle.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at email@example.com