The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 26, 2013

Sheran holds hearing on state hospitals, clinics

"Scathing" auditor's report listed 20 recommendations for state

ST. PAUL — Initial efforts to reform Minnesota’s state-run health care facilities got a hearing Thursday by legislators looking for evidence that the Department of Human Services is making changes recommended by an auditor.

Sen. Kathy Sheran, a Mankato Democrat, called her committee together to discuss the Office of the Legislative Auditor’s report, released in February. The report, which Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, called “scathing,” includes 20 recommendations for the department.

The first one sought to clarify who, exactly, was responsible for problems at state-run hospitals, clinics, group homes and other facilities.

“There’s confusion in who’s responsible for what. There’s this kind of a concept going on,” Sheran said, pointing in different directions.

An existing body, called the State-Operated Services Governing Board, created more confusion than clarity, Sheran said, and has been eliminated.

Instead, accountability lies with the human services department itself, specifically with Anne Barry, deputy commissioner for direct care and treatment.

“I’m the responsible accountable person in that structure,” Barry told the committee.

In March 2012, the Legislative Audit Commission asked the legislative auditor to review state-run facilities. These are different from privately run but state-financed entities, such as many group homes.

The commission wanted to evaluate how the state manages its facilities, and whether their occupants would be better served elsewhere, among other questions.

The state provided direct care to about 12,500 people in the last fiscal year, DHS said, but only about 600 people are served by the state’s two biggest hospitals on any given day, according to the report.

According to the report, Minnesota has 10.4 patients in state-run hospitals per 100,000 residents, much lower than the national average of 17 per 100,000.

The St. Peter Regional Treatment Center includes both the Minnesota Security Hospital, which treats the mentally ill and dangerous, and part of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The sex offender program was not evaluated by the auditor this time (it was evaluated in 2011) because it is run by a separate branch of the Department of Human Services.

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