Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles plans to stop using police officers to deal with agitated psychiatric patients, in response to a threat by federal health regulators to pull the hospital’s funding, says the Los Angeles Times. Last week, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services warned the Los Angeles County-owned hospital that it relied too heavily on county police to subdue aggressive mental patients with Taser stun guns.
Because King/Drew staff did not try less extreme methods first, federal inspectors determined, they placed patients in “immediate jeopardy.” Until new workers can be hired, the hospital said, it would forbid police officers from bringing weapons when they’re called, unless a patient commits a crime. Similar changes will be made at the county’s other public hospitals. If federal officials are not satisfied that patients are out of harm’s way, King/Drew could lose about $200 million in federal funding – more than half its budget.