AFSCME Iowa Council 61 - Every Day. Everywhere. Making Iowa Better.

Understaffing, Inappropriate Placements are Systemic in State Facilities

DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding recent staff injuries at the Independence Mental Health Institute:

“I was deeply concerned to hear about two separate incidents of staff being seriously injured by the same patient at the Independence Mental Health Institute over the past two weeks. The first incident resulted in two staff members being rushed to the emergency room; the second resulted in injuries simply due to the fact that insufficient staff was available to respond and assist the staff member while she was being assaulted.

“The issue of understaffing permeates too many of our state facilities. Whether prisons, mental health institutes, or resource centers, putting staff in harm’s way simply because we are continually understaffed is unacceptable.

“Appropriate placement has also been a continuing issue at our mental health institutes and resource centers. The patient who attacked multiple staff at Independence MHI was transferred from a private facility who was no longer able to handle his violent behavior. There should have been a period of consideration by the state to determine whether or not his behavior pattern could be appropriately handled at Independence MHI, given their staff shortages.

“Another ongoing concern regarding placement is the convicted rapist at Woodward Resource Center, who has been threatening another attack since his transfer to the facility in August. There is no doubt that the Woodward Resource Center is an unsafe place for a violent sexual predator to reside. For the sake of the staff, his fellow residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the public, we have to make more responsible placement decisions.”

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Iowa Council 61 represents 40,000 public employees including law enforcement and correctional officers, firefighters, mental health workers, professional school staff, emergency responders, and many other workers. AFSCME Iowa Council 61 also represents home health care and child care providers across the state and private sector workers at Prairie Meadows, Palmer College of Chiropractic, Des Moines University, and ABM (Marshalltown).

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