A $56 million expansion to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter was completed last year and when it was unveiled, the Department of Human Services said the design of the new addition made it much safer for both staff and patients.
But even with the new building, half of the hospital is the in the old facility with blind corners and poor lines of sight.
In his 2017 budget proposal, Governor Mark Dayton requested $23 million to hire additional staff, but the Health and Human Services funding bill passed in the state House prior to the break doesn’t provide money to hire more workers at the Security Hospital.
State Representative Jack Considine has a unique insight into the dangers that exist; he’s a former security counselor at the facility that treats people civilly committed by state courts as mentally ill and dangerous.
He said those blind corners have a lasting impact on employees. “Watch them when they come to a corner, even in a restaurant or on the street,” Considine said, “They’ll step out and look around the corner. It just gets to be second nature, because sometimes you have a patient standing there with their fist cocked, ready to hit you, when you come around the corner.”
That is not the only effect security shortfalls and under-staffing can have on workers or even former workers. “Try to come up behind somebody that works at the Security Hospital. They’ll stop and turn around to check to see who is coming up behind them. I still do it now, 27 or 28 years later,” the Mankato Democrat said.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said there have been 370 patient assaults on staff with injuries the past five years, and Considine would like see a study into the average life expectancy of Security Hospital workers conducted because, “In the last five years I have witnessed dozens of people that I worked with in the 80s that have died, and they are all anywhere from 58 to their early 60s. I believe it is the stress and the anger and the pressure that they are under all the time.”
In 2105, a patient slammed a security counselor’s head into the wall several times and also kneed her in the skull, knocking her unconscious. The woman continues to have medical issues from that assault. In 2014, a patient was stomped to death by another patient.
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