Lawmakers decline to enhance penalties for assaulting healthcare workers

A receptionist works the ER department at Campbell County Health in Gillette on June 22, 2020. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

By Sofia Jeremias, Wyofile

The Joint Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday against sponsoring a bill aimed at enhancing penalties for those who assault or threaten violence against healthcare providers.

Why it Matters: Proponents of the bill said it was an important step in protecting healthcare workers from rising violence in the industry.

  • Between Jan. 2021 and June, 2022 Wyoming healthcare workers reported 121 incidents of violence via workers compensation claims, according to testimony delivered by Wyoming Hospital Association Vice President Josh Hannes.
  • Advocates said failing to pass the legislation could put Wyoming at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting healthcare workers because most other states have passed some sort of extra penalties.
  • “I’ve been spit on. I’ve been pushed, kicked, knocked over,” said Lisa Harry, a Campbell County board of health trustee. “You expect that. But these kinds of incidents have increased so much that I have to question is this enough? What we’re doing is not working. We aren’t protecting our workers.”

Why it failed: Some lawmakers said that while they want to find a solution to the issue, they thought the enhanced penalties wouldn’t actually help solve the problem.

  • “We talked about law enforcement having special protections in our statutes,” Rep. Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie) said. “And we heard from law enforcement last time that that hasn’t stopped them from being assaulted either.”
  • Sen. John Kolb (R-Rock Springs) said that testimony showed the bill would “not deter people from doing what they’ve been doing in violence against healthcare workers. And I’ll stand opposed to legislation that effectively does not help.”

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