Colorado lawmakers aim to prevent violence against health care workers with proposed bill

House Bill 24-1066 would create committees that "empower" the voices of health care workers in their individual facilities.
Posted at 10:26 PM, Jan 30, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-31 00:26:10-05

DENVER — State lawmakers have proposed a bill in an effort to stifle the increasing number of attacks on Colorado health care workers.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows health care and social service workers are five times more likely to be assaulted while on the job than other occupations.

The Colorado Nurses Association Research Advisory & Networking Team states workplace violence in health care is "prevalent, underreported, and detrimental to workplace safety and patient outcomes." The same summary said the impact of the issue leads to increased stress, burnout, trauma and even leaving the profession. Reducing workplace violence is critical in preventing the "exacerbation of the nursing shortage crisis," according to the report.

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State Representative Eliza Hamrick, D - Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, hopes to prevent workplace assaults for health care workers with House Bill 24-1066. It would apply to hospitals, emergency departments, nursing care facilities, assisted living residences and federally qualified health centers.

The bill would require the facilities to establish workplace violence prevention committees that document and review any incidents of violence against employees. Those committees would create violence prevention plans that are specific to their place of work.

"It creates a protocol for on-the-ground workers to have their voices amplified in workplace violence committees," Hamrick said. “That’s the beauty of the bill is the workers at the facility determine what would be most beneficial.”

The bill states that 60% of workplace violence presents as verbal aggression, 36% involves threats, 29% is classified as physical violence and 4% involves the use of an object or weapon.

Hamrick said the framework contained in the bill is based on best practices.

"There was a law in California that was passed that reduced workplace violence by about 40%, and this is modeled after that law," Hamrick said. “There already are criminal penalties for assaulting a nurse, and what our bill does is it looks at the preventative side... We've seen that over and over again, you know, more penalties don't necessarily reduce certain types of crimes.”

Assaulting a health care worker is considered a felony in Colorado, Hamrick said.

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Colorado supports the bill.

"In the mental health space, what we're most concerned about is if you take them down the criminal justice road, they're going to go down an entanglement that is really hard to get out," said Executive Director Ray Merenstein. "We're trying to actually build a system that works, rather than perpetuate a system that is already not working for mental health."

The Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council (CBHC) is currently taking an amended position on the bill. Those with the CBHC said they took that position because they see some redundancies in what is already required for health care facilities from a provider perspective.

The bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives and is waiting to be scheduled for committee.

Colorado lawmakers aim to prevent violence against health care workers with proposed bill

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