Press Release

Nurses applaud introduction of AB 1001 requiring hospitals to staff behavioral health teams to respond to emergencies in all units

Nurses holding signs "Insist on an RN"

Assemblymember Haney’s bill addresses growing concerns over lack of critical patient care

California Nurses Association (CNA) applauds the introduction of A.B. 1001, authored by Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), as it addresses the critical need for immediate behavioral health interventions and treatment for patients. If passed, this legislation would create hospital standards to ensure there is appropriate staff available, across all units of the hospital, to immediately respond to patients who are experiencing behavioral health emergencies.

This morning, members of CNA were joined by Assemblymember Haney during a press conference outside St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco to underscore the importance of the proposed legislation to address the needs of patients in crisis. You can find photos here.

“For too long, we have gone without appropriate staffing to meet the needs of patients who are facing a behavioral health emergency,” said Yvette Bassett, a registered nurse in the emergency room at Saint Francis Hospital. “For patients who are suffering from an emergency, it could be a matter of life or death. Having an appropriately skilled behavioral health team would not only save the life of our patients, but also provide the necessary support for staff and nurses to appropriately care for the patient.”

“California is experiencing a mental health and addiction crisis and the first place people come to get help is our hospitals,” said Haney, Chair of the Fentanyl and Opioid Overdose Prevention Select Committee. “But our hospitals often don’t have the appropriate staff or standards to care for these patients—that hurts both the patients and the already overworked staff. Instead of treating people with mental health and addiction issues, we’re pushing them back onto the street.”

A significant number of patients with behavioral health care needs, including mental health and substance use considerations, enter California hospitals each year. In 2020, patients with behavioral health diagnoses represented one-third of all inpatient hospitalizations and one-fifth of all emergency department visits, according to California Department of Health Care Access and Information.

Hospitals are unprepared, understaffed, and lack dedicated behavioral health nurses and other appropriate staff to respond to patients experiencing emergency psychiatric or behavioral health crises. As a result, nurses and their patients are placed in dangerous conditions and patients do not receive the immediate care they need and deserve.

A.B. 1001 creates hospital standards to ensure that appropriate staff is available and trained to respond to patients experiencing behavioral health emergencies. The proposed legislation requires hospitals to have appropriately trained psychiatric health care professionals, including psychiatric registered nurses, available to immediately respond to hospital patients outside of psychiatric units.

“It is very difficult to see a patient suffering from a behavioral health emergency and not have trained professionals available to treat them,” said Amy Preble, an ICU nurse at St. Mary’s Medical Center. “The lack of expertise and resources not only hurts our patients, but puts nurses and other staff at risk for violence. We know when nurses aren’t safe, none of our patients are safe. Passage of this bill would indicate our respect for those who are suffering from behavioral health crises, all of our patients, and signal that nurses deserve protection at work.”

“We also need to invest in developing the workforce responsible for taking care of people with mental health and addiction emergencies,” said Haney. “This bill pulls on already existing dollars to fund a mental health and addiction staff training program to make sure there is knowledgeable staff in hospitals who know how to deescalate situations and take care of patients. If we don’t invest in this workforce, we’ll continue to see more nurses leaving the field and fewer patients getting the help they desperately need.”

California Nurses Association/National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the nation with 100,000 members in more than 200 facilities throughout California and nearly 225,000 RNs nationwide.