With a growing number of assaults by patients at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, nurses want more staff and segregated units for those who are the most violent, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Thirty years ago, a Milwaukee lawsuit sparked a nationwide revolution in mental health care. Patients living in locked psychiatric hospital wards were released to fend for themselves. Today, the Journal Sentinel says that hundreds of today’s sickest patients suffer in the city’s most broken-down neighborhoods.
Assault statistics show about a 50 percent increase at the county mental health complex over four years. Staff must “work where it’s almost like a combat situation,” said Dennis Positano, an 18-year veteran registered nurse who suffered the eye injury. Reasons given for the violence upsurge include sicker patients admitted for shorter stays, and mixing of patients whose needs vary widely. That means more one-on-one staffing for unstable patients, creating staff shortages elsewhere, county officials said. Criminal convictions in assaults are difficult to get because patients under mental commitments often are found incompetent.