St. Louis Public Radio News
11:14 am
Thu November 12, 2009

AFSCME wants new alarm system at Fulton State Hospital

Jefferson City, Mo. – The labor union that represents state workers wants the Missouri Department of Mental Health to upgrade security at the state's maximum security mental hospital in Fulton.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is asking the state to implement the Man-Down alarm system. It consists of a pager-like device that a worker would wear and could activate if physically attacked.

Michelle Sanders works at Fulton State Hospital. She says she's been attacked numerous times.

"Staff now have to make the choice of whether to run (down a hallway) to the Staff Support (alarm) Button, or run to the aid of the attack...that's something we should never have to choose," Sanders said.

The Man-Down alarm system would cost about $50,000.

State Mental Health Director Keith Schafer says coming up with that much money won't be easy.

"It's hard to find $25 nowadays...obviously, state governments are experiencing some pretty tough budget situations, not just our state but states all across the nation...we'll have to look at those issues that are absolutely most critical," Shaefer said.

But Schafer suggests that does include protecting both workers and patients.

AFSCME is also in the middle of negotiations with the state on potential pay raises and other issues.