The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

October 20, 2013

State hospital capital must be approved

WHY IT MATTERS: The Minnesota Security Hospital needs upgrading and that's a statewide concern

There will be the normal thrusting of tin cups to the state Legislature this coming year as lawmakers consider which projects will get state bonding.

It’s usually a crowded field when considering lobbyists outnumber legislators six to one. But one project that should be high on the list doesn’t have an army of door knockers.

The Minnesota Security Hospital (MSH) in St. Peter is requesting $56.3 million both for better security and to help patients recover more quickly.

According to the request filed with the state, the design of the hospital presents problems. “The existing layout of the patient units provides poor sightlines for unit staff to monitor patient activity in these pod areas. If patient behavior requires intervention by staff to protect a patient from self-injury, or to protect other patients in the living pod from harm/injury, this poor unit configuration often results in patient and/or staff injury as staff attempt to relocate the patient from the living pod up or down these narrow stairs.”

In fact, such injuries to patients and staff have been well documented. In 2012, security hospital staff endured 93 injuries and 434 assaults. Records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration show high numbers of injuries going back several years. Patients also have been injured in varying degrees because of poor designs.

It also would help separate the entire security hospital program from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP). “Both programs currently have individuals which are housed on the lower campus who have reached the point in their treatment where they have earned the privilege of campus liberty (the ability to move about campus with limited control),” the proposal states.

“While MSH patients are considered vulnerable adults, MSOP clients are not. Allowing individuals from both programs to circulate on the lower campus is not good policy and presents safety risks. The Department believes it is time to make a concerted effort to separate the two populations. Moving MSH programs to new facilities on the upper campus will address this issue and physically separate these very different populations in the future. “

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