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More security needed at security hospital in St. Peter

The Minnesota Security Hospital is no place to skimp. These are dangerous people. If they’re not treated or escape, public safety is always at risk.

The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.

MANKATO — We don’t envy the Dayton administration’s task in reforming operations at the facility that houses some of the most dangerous and mentally ill criminals in the state.

And the problems at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter have been longstanding and severe. They exploded with the firing in March of Administrator David Proffitt, a man who was appointed with insufficient background checks and who performed poorly for the time he was at the helm.

But Dayton and leaders at the Department of Human Services must have a sense of urgency on fixing this situation. A Minnesota Public Radio News report published in The Free Press in late August showed that the number of employee injuries suffered at the hands of violent patients by July 30 had surpassed the total number for 2011. Some 40 employees had been injured, compared to 32 for all of 2011.

Part of the problem stems from the resignation of nearly all of the facility’s psychiatrists who had legitimate complaints about Proffitt’s leadership. As of late August, it appeared only one full time psychiatrist oversaw the care of almost 400 patients with the help of part-time and temporary employees. The Department of Human Services says it is working on getting back up to full staffing and plans to hire another full-time psychiatrist and several psychiatric nurse practitioners to treat the violent patients. Another seven psychiatrists from other state facilities are also helping fill in.

The administration is also transitioning to a different type of treatment where patients are restrained less, which was in response to criticism from the state licensing authority. But that also meant more patients were able to attack security counselors. The facility began using Velcro restraints instead of the harsher traditional handcuffs but found that also created more injuries for employees. They went back to handcuffs.

Clearly, staff shortages are part of the staff injury problem. Patients often now see a different nurse or doctor each time they go in for treatment and that can be disruptive for the patients, many of whom are on heavy psychotic medications.

Deputy Human Services Commission Anne Barry said the state is looking to hire and train as fast as it can to stem the staff shortages. But that hiring and training can take six weeks. It is also looking to address longstanding problems at the facility. The new medical director, Dr. Steven Pratt, is apparently working 60- 70 hours a week meeting with staff to get this facility back on track and improve worker safety.

The Minnesota Security Hospital is no place to skimp. These are dangerous people. If they’re not treated or escape, public safety is always at risk. We urge the administration to do whatever it takes and legislators to back the administration with the appropriate funding to stem to tide of employee injuries and get this facility back under control.

Reprinted with permission.


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