Oregon's Legislature joined a growing trend this week when it considered a bill that would make it a felony to intentionally or knowingly cause physical injury to an employee at a state hospital or mental institution.
Several states are enacting or considering similar laws amid growing concerns about the safety of hospital staff caused by recent widely reported attacks.
The Oregon legislation, introduced Feb.10 by Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem), would expand crimes of assault in the third degree to include causing physical injury to a person employed at a state mental hospital. The law currently covers public transit workers, youth correction facility staff and emergency medical workers. Assault in the third degree is considered a class C felony in Oregon, punishable by up to five years in prison and $125,000 in fines, according to the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers group.
Just one week before the Oregon bill was introduced, a technician at a hospital in that state was left with a dislocated jaw, concussion and split lip, as reported by local press.