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Mental Health Workers Risk Lives

The Service Employees International Union 1199NW has said that it supports the "Marty Smith" bill, which would require mental-health workers to work with a partner when// they visit high-risk patients. Marty Smith was stabbed to death when he visited the home of Larry Clark, a child rapist whose mother had summoned help saying he was a schizophrenic and off his medications.

Smith's case proves that mental health workers risk their lived in the job. Kathleen McPhaul, assistant professor with the University of Maryland's Department of Family and Community Health said that workers must have the power to prevent violence from patients. "It's the face time with the worker that keeps the patients stable," McPhaul said. "Violence is not necessarily a symptom of being mentally ill."

Mental health work "is not thought to be a risky job, but it's highly dangerous," said Michael Foley, a senior economist with the state Department of Labor and Industries.

The Marty Smith Bill was sponsored by Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood, who hopes it will help workers in future.

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