Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation intended to improve staff and patient safety at state psychiatric hospitals by streamlining the process which individuals who have been declared incompetent to stand trial can be involuntarily medicated.

Democratic Assemblyman Michael Allen of Santa Rosa, who wrote AB 366, also said the legislation would save state funds by simplifying the legal process required for approvals of involuntary medication.

Existing law only allows the courts to provide an order for such treatment if the patient consents to medication at their original hearing. Withdrawal of that consent after the hearing and upon entering a state hospital requires a new hearing, a process that can often take months and make the patient a risk in the meantime, according to Allen.

AB 366 changes the process by requiring a court order upon entering the state hospital system for patients determined to be a danger to themselves or others.

The new law, Allen said in a statement, "does not erode any current due process for patients." It would add a periodic court review of medication orders, a protection that patients currently lack, he said.

The legislation was driven especially by a recent string of violent attacks at Napa State Hospital, one of which resulted in the death last October of a 54-year-old psychiatric technician.

Allen said 8,300 aggressive incidents throughout the state hospital system in 2010 resulted in 5,100 injuries to patients and staff, resulting in lost work days, and additional worker's compensation and overtime costs.

The bill was supported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the California Psychological Association, the California State Law Enforcement Association and several public employee unions.