Cell phones have become a vital part of our daily lives. Many no longer keep landlines at home, so a cell phone is the only way to be reached in case of emergency with a family member, call 911 for an emergency for themselves or simply to communicate.
A Fulton State Hospital spokesperson has confirmed to the Fulton Sun that four employees there had mobile devices in an area at work were they were prohibited.
We understand the security risk and support the state hospital's decision to confiscate the three cell phones and one iPad from four employees who broke the rules. But that's where we draw the line.
Debra Walker, public affairs officer for the Missouri Department of Mental Health, stated in an email to the Fulton Sun that the employees will receive their devices back after meeting with Marty Martin-Forman, director of Fulton State Hospital. This is also acceptable, except that three of the four employees do not have appointments with Martin-Forman until Friday and one has not yet scheduled an appointment.
This means three people went home Wednesday after their shifts at FSH without phones and will not get them back until Friday.
We don't know the circumstances of these employees. We don't know if they have spouses or significant others who can share a phone for a few days. We don't know if they have their own transportation or must call someone to get to and from work, the grocery store, etc. We don't know if they have landlines. We don't know who they need to communicate with or for what reason over the next few days.
We do know that taking an employee's property and not returning it upon completion of their shifts is treating them like children. Perhaps taking the phones into restricted areas was a poor decision, maybe even childish, but two wrongs do not make a right.
We implore FSH to return the phones to employees promptly. Find some other means of punishment for breaking the rules, but keeping a cell phone - a necessity for some in our society - and treating employees like a child who brought a toy to school is simply uncalled for and beyond the authority the state hospital should have.