The Free Press, Mankato, MN


April 9, 2013

Our View: Treatment Center needs bonding funds

— Gov. Mark Dayton's bonding proposal includes funding for high profile projects like the expansion of Mankato Verizon Wireless Center, but improvements to the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center should also be at the very top of the list.

The improvements have been needed for a long time, and they will improve safety for staff in dealing with some of the state's most violent criminals. Last year, 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.

We consider these safety improvements and emergency. For every day they are left undone, another worker will be hurt. Staff and patients themselves continue to be at a risk for injury from physical structures that create blind corners and compartmentalized layout that make it difficult to see someone who needs help or is being assaulted.

The governor has requested $46.8 million for the Security Hospital upgrades and another $4.3 million for planning money for remodeling part of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The House DFL leadership also has included security hospital funding in its bill but at a level of $36.3 million.

One can argue for many worthwhile projects in both bonding bills that will spur economic development, keep our college buildings in shape and preserve our state Capitol. But there are few that actually improve the safety of state workers who deal with the most violent offenders. There is no argument that the bonding for St. Peter facilities will achieve that goal.

There are some 200 plus patients at the Security Hospital and a good share of the state's 700 sex offenders are on the same campus. It's a safety nightmare waiting to happen. When Dayton visited the campuses earlier last year, he argued for the funding then saying the building was obsolete and not appropriate for therapeutic programs.

Dayton pointed to hard-edged fixtures and concrete walls that make it more hazardous when patients get out of control. Dayton had proposed the project for bonding in 2012, noting it was more urgent than he previously thought.

It's even more urgent one year later. Improvements to the St. Peter campus should be on the top of the list for state lawmakers.

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