FL Mental Hospital Workers Win First Round for Special-Risk Pension Status

April 11, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A state Senate committee in Florida approved a measure that would give state mental hospital workers who spend most of their day working with dangerous patients the same pension benefits as police and correctional officers in prison and law enforcement agencies.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, some lawmakers have been pushing for years to get the same pension benefits for these workers, citing the many injuries suffered by workers who are attacked by mental patients in the forensic units of state hospitals.

The bill proposed by state Senator Al Lawson would nearly double the retirement benefits of employees who spend about three-quarters of the work day in contact with patients who – if they weren’t declared mentally incompetent – might be behind bars. Lawson is asking for $8.1 million in funding from the state this year.

If the bill passes, these mental hospital workers would get the same special-risk status that police and correctional officers in prison and law-enforcement agencies get. This means that instead of getting 1.6% in annual pension credits, they would receive 3%, and that hospital workers would be to retire with 25 years service or at age 55, without penalty.

The measure was passed in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and will go to Lawson’s Governmental Operations Committee next, according to the news report.