Violence against nurses and other medical professionals appears to be on the rise around the country as more and more drug addicts, alcoholics and psychiatric patients visit emergency rooms, says an AP report.
And nurses have responded, in part, by seeking tougher criminal penalties for assaults against health care workers.
An AP review has found the downturn in the economy has made the problem worse. Cash-strapped states are closing state hospitals, cutting mental health jobs, eliminating addiction programs and curtailing other services.
Federal figures show ER visits related to drugs and alcohol rose from about 1.6 million in 2005 to nearly 2 million in 2008. Violence reports shot up from more than 16,000 in 2006 to more than 21,000 in 2008.