Legislation offered by Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, that protects workers at the Fulton State Hospital from being required to work long hours without a break was signed Thursday by Gov. Jay Nixon.
The legislation prohibits mental health employees at the Fulton State Hospital from being required to work more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period unless the Department of Mental health declares an emergency workforce shortage.
To give the hospital time to adjust its workforce, the legislation does not go into effect until next year. It is effective July 1, 2013.
When Riddle introduced the bill, it would have been effective immediately. But that was changed during the legislative process. A provision also was added allowing an exemption if the Department of Mental Health declares an emergency workforce shortage.
The legislation also was combined with several other mental health-related bills.
"Employees at Fulton State Hospital deserve to work in the safest environment possible," Riddle said.
"Having to work multiple back-to-back eight-hour shifts can result in overall poor health and slower reaction time. This is unacceptable and can make life very difficult for the employees and their families," Riddle said.
Riddle said if hospital employee shift replacements do not arrive other employees must stay to supervise clients and perform other necessary duties.
The legislation does not prohibit an employee from requesting to work extra time if he or she desires to do so.