Hemet, CA –A group of care professionals at Riverside County’s Hemet Clinic are taking an affirmative stand against the safety breaches that have hit an all-time high at the clinic. On Wednesday, December 21st, the Riverside County employees held a “Safety Check” in front of the clinic to air their safety concerns and fears.
Dozens of Behavioral Health Specialists, Clinical Therapists, and other care professionals gave insight into the on-going and a troubling number of violent incidents that have taken place on the clinic’s premises. One by one they scribbled on a giant board their solutions to the safety crisis, solutions that ranged from fencing the employee parking to better-trained security on the County’s clinics premises.
“We’ve had clinic break-ins and vehicles have also been broken into. License plates and registration stickers have been stolen,” says 20-year Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Rachel Noyles.
“We’ve been accosted walking to our cars in the parking lot. It’s come to the point we have to walk out in numbers. It makes it hard to come to work when you love what you do, but you’re putting yourself at a high risk in doing so.”
The Hemet Clinic serves patients with unique needs including those recovering from addiction, those struggling with mental disorders and parolees/ex-offenders. Located next to a liquor store and a vast empty lot, and across the street from a homeless shelter, the clinic’s premises have become a magnet for shady dealings. The clinic is the only non-gated Riverside County building along a stretch of other County buildings along State Street.
Professionals like Rachel Noyles are consistently working in an environment where patients can be mentally unstable, suicidal or homicidal, but even their training alone cannot replace adequate safety measures inside the building. Amongst the employees’ concerns is the lack of security staff on County premises that are trained and properly equipped to deal with potentially violent incidents within the clinic itself or out in the employee/public parking lots.
Additionally, there is no adequate safeguard between a mental care employee and a potentially combative client, and nothing to impede a client from bringing a weapon inside the clinic and potentially harm other patients or staff. Without security measures as simple as a secure gate around the perimeter, there’s very little in the way to avoid safety breaches that are too much for any individual security guard to handle.
The Hemet Clinic employees have every right to be concerned. Per a U.S. Department of Justice study, psychiatrists, social workers, and other mental health professionals are four times as likely to be assaulted on the job as workers generally.
The “Safety Check” arrived on the heels of a group grievance against Riverside County on December 15, 2016, to rectify the worsening problem the Hemet Clinic. The grievance was filed immediately after news spread throughout the clinic that an employee of the County was attacked at the facility on December 14th. The group grievance and the “Safety Check” action makes it vividly clear that employees at the facility are working in serious fear of suffering a violent attack that may lead to death while on the job, and they no longer feel safe.
“I’ve serviced homeless people below freeway underpasses by myself and I’ve felt safer there than at this clinic,” adds Rachel Noyles.
The grievance gives Riverside County 15 days from the day of filing to establish and enforce safety measures to protect employees and/or the public, and the Hemet employees have vowed to continue pushing to bring the real change.
“The county is obligated to provide us with a safe work environment. We want to see change now,” says Behavior Health Specialist Julian Montiel. The care professionals are already planning their next action for a safe and protected workplace–fearing for their lives at work cannot be the new normal.Stay tuned.