Employees take desperate measures fearing for their lives at a Hemet mental health clinic
■ By Halima Haider / Reporter
Authorities promise to tighten safeguards at the Hemet chapter of the Riverside County Mental Health clinic after a “Safety Check” addressing ongoing safety breaches on clinic grounds was held by a union of county workers on Dec. 21 outside the clinic on N. State Street.
“I want the people of Hemet to know that the clinic is a safe place, and we are doing everything in our power to make it even safer,” Director of Behavioral Health of Riverside University Health System Steve Steinberg, told The Valley Chronicle. “The safety and security of the clinic––the people that work there and the people that we serve––is priority for our department. Each clinic has a safety plan to meet its special needs and adjustments as new issues and ongoing issues were made aware of.”
According to the union, and other care professionals involved, the violent acts that patients hurl at clinic staff are not only rampant and dangerous, but can result in possible deaths.
“I have serviced homeless people below freeway underpasses by myself and felt safer there than at this clinic,” said 20-year Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Rachel Noyles in a statement. “We have had clinic break-ins and cars have also been broken into. License plates and registration stickers have been stolen.”
The “Safety Check” was a follow up action to a group grievance filed by the union on Dec. 15 in which dozens of county workers spoke out in defense of their safety, picketing with signs that read: “Prioritize the safety needs of care professionals and patients.” A nearby car was allegedly broken into an hour after the demonstration ended.
The grievance stated that employees fear being attacked, and even losing their lives at the workplace. Demands were made for immediate implementation of improved safety measures by clinic authorities. Break-ins, accostation, and threats from patients are routine, say union members, which they attribute to inadequately trained security staff and the building being adjacent to a homeless shelter, and bordering a liquor store and a dubious vacant lot.
The Hemet clinic is an outpatient behavioral health clinic that provides mental health services to adults suffering from mental illness as well as to their families, including those recovering from addiction, struggling with mental disorders and parolees.
The clinic is the only non-gated Riverside County building along a stretch of other county buildings along State Street.
No reports have been made of threats, or accounts of employees quitting due to the ongoing incidents.