Union criticizes state over mental health facility attacks

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa (AP) — A state workers union is criticizing what it says is the state’s lack of response to attacks on at least four employees at the state psychiatric care facility in eastern Iowa.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says assaults over the past two weeks at the Independence Mental Health Institute include a nurse punched in the nose and three residential treatment workers who suffered head or neck injuries.

Union President Danny Homan said in a news release that “a safety crisis taking place for the employees, and the state of Iowa is showing no urgency to address it.”

Iowa Human Services Department Matt Highland says workplace injuries at the institute are down from last year and says treatment provided to aggressive patients is often reviewed to help reduce violent incidents.

It’s the same facility from which nurse Tina Suckow was fired days after her federally entitled medical leave expired. Her request for time off without pay was denied. A patient beat Suckow with his fists last October