ST PETER —
Ray Knutson, a clinical psychologist at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, was at the event to provide a non-numerical perspective on the debate. Knutson has seen more than 80 psychologists come and go at the facility, which provides a secure setting for some of the state’s most mentally disturbed patients who are deemed a danger to themselves or others.
In many cases, remaining psychologists and therapists now have many more patients — not because positions have been eliminated but because the state isn’t attracting enough qualified applicants for vacant positions, Knutson said.
“The state doesn’t pay on par with the private sector for psychologists,” he said.
That means patients are sometimes seeing reductions in the number of group counseling sessions, seeing psychologists rushing from one task to the next and seeing new faces and changing treatment strategies as psychologists come and go.
“Some of them don’t deal with change very well at all,” Knutson said.
There have been times when psychologists, now gone, ignored some of their duties, failed to completely document patient treatment and sometimes didn’t provide a strict schedule of therapy, he said. Remaining psychologists often work overtime, unpaid, trying to keep up.
Essentially, the facility has gone from one where staff was sometimes overwhelmed but usually had time later to catch up to a facility where staff is “almost constantly swamped,” he said.
Knutson said the patients deserve better.
“These are some of the most vulnerable and lost people in the state of Minnesota,” he said. “They deserve the best care we can give them and to be treated with dignity.”