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Overwhelmed

Alameda County's emergency psychiatric hospital has become overcrowded and increasingly dangerous.

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Tatum declined to be interviewed for this story. But another nurse, again speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Tatum's administrative leave was viewed by PES staffers as a signal from administrators that any communication with regulators, AHS trustees, county officials, and the public, would be punished. The nurse called the situation "administrative bullying."

Many PES staffers view the current situation as a crisis. Late last year, 150 John George PES staff members signed a petition calling for a cap on the number of patients who can be admitted the facility. They also called for Tatum's reinstatement. And the PES workers called for the removal of Linn, the John George Hospital's director of nursing, "for her responsibility in targeting whistleblowers [and] creating a hostile work environment."

According to a letter sent on December 8, 2015 by Derrick Boutte, an AHS employee and the AHS chapter president of the union SEIU 1021, to Delvecchio Finley, the CEO of AHS, a majority of John George workers represented by SEIU 1021 voted that they have no confidence in Linn's ability to function as the facility's director of nursing. Tatum's administrative leave was recently rescinded, but Linn remains the director of nursing. And John George PES still has no patient cap or a clear nurse-to-patient ratio.

When and how these larger issues will be resolved is unclear. In the meantime, the underlying social and economic problems that many believe are the cause of mental health emergencies are only getting worse. "The housing crisis and the rapid gentrification of previously low-income neighborhoods has impacted the population of homeless and hungry in Alameda County," wrote PES staffers in their open letter. "Even when not in a mental health crisis, John George is a refuge for the needy, indigent, and historically under-served in our community."

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