ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday the Minnesota Security Hospital that houses patients who have been committed as mentally ill or sexually dangerous is antiquated and in need of upgrades — improvements that he argues are made even more urgent by the recent departures of seven of the facility’s psychiatrists.

Dayton and Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson visited the hospital in St. Peter on Wednesday so the governor could get a first-hand look at the facility serving the state’s hardest-to-control patients.

His bonding proposal includes $40 million to remodel the hospital, including improving narrow hallways and poor sightlines to increase patient and staff safety.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Dayton said he had his visit planned before several of the hospital’s psychiatrists left over the management style of new administrator David Proffitt, who has been on the job since September. The resignations give the funding new urgency, he said.

“Some of the substandard, obsolete conditions make it more difficult for the staff … and make it easier for patients to begin exhibiting the wrong behaviors before they are protected,” he said.

Dayton said he didn’t discuss the resignations with Proffitt, saying he has confidence Jesson is handling the situation. Jesson hired an attorney to investigate allegations that Proffitt created a hostile work environment.

Profit did not return a phone call seeking comment.

“If you come in and people do things differently, not everybody is going to jump on board,” Dayton said. “But as they describe the direction they are going, from punitive to a more supportive environment, that’s a much better mental health approach than treating somebody like they’re in a prison.”

Dayton said the facility is shifting its approach to emphasize support and empathy over restrictions. He said it will take time for staff to learn new skills, and for patients to realize they are in a different environment.

“It sounds to me like they are going in the right direction in terms of a more therapeutic approach, and at the same time separating individuals from society until they are in a condition where they can function in some way, under supervision,” Dayton said.

According to information from Human Services, seven psychiatrists recently left Minnesota Security Hospital, or are leaving effective this month. The number includes three resignations, a contract that ended, transfers, and one firing. An eighth doctor is on leave.

DHS said the reasons for the resignations are not public.

But an attorney representing most of the doctors said Proffitt created a hostile work environment. Greg Corwin said his clients claim Proffitt interfered with medical decisions and treatment and made his own decisions on use of restraints, leaving many doctors fearing they’d lose their license or be fired.

“I would characterize it as a reign of terror,” Corwin said.

The doctor who was fired, Michael Harlow, said he was told his values were not in line with the direction of the organization and his methods were deemed “non-therapeutic.” He was fired Dec. 20 after he placed a patient in seclusion who had threatened to kill a female nurse.

Harlow said that up until the point of his firing, there hadn’t been any official changes in hospital policy or procedures. He claims his firing was without merit.

DHS said there are over 800 employees at the hospital serving about 380 patients, but Harlow said the doctors who left represent all of the psychiatrists on staff. Terry Gunderson, Human Services spokeswoman, said the hospital is in the process of hiring a new medical director.

Proffitt came to Minnesota from The Acadia Hospital in Bangor, Maine, which was fined $11,700 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing to provide a safe workplace for employees — after violent patients assaulted staff 115 times from 2008 through 2011.

OSHA began investigating after employees complained that Proffitt’s efforts to eliminate the use of restraints had let to a sharp increase in worker injuries.

Last September, Proffitt told the AP he he’d never prohibit all use of restraints, but would work to reduce the need for them.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (22)
  1. it grows on trees doesn't it says:

    Where does Markie Pooh put this on his taxpayer priority payment list – ahead of Zippy’s shrine or after it?

  2. Ines Beag says:

    We heard nothing about this until David Proffitt(DFL) was hired. $40 million, stop paying $168,00 per inmate at Moose lake. Just lock the doors, get the sissy guards(women) out and let the inmates figure it out for themselves. Only downside, we have to pay to bury them.

    1. Ines Beag says:

      I meant $168.000 per year. PS That’s almost $2,000.000 in ten yrs. How much you make!

  3. Brett says:

    How about a death penalty for 1st Degree Murder, or murder for the benefit of a gang? NOPE. He just wants tp protect state workers, at the expense and RISK of us all.

    1. old nurse says:

      Is your head up your poop hole? This is a proposal for the facility. Nothing has been said about death penalty. The only crime the death penalty prevents is liberals killing totally stupid conservatives. Just so you understand, Stupid conservatives like you.

  4. Greg Applekamp says:

    The state hospitals are as a whole a major waste of money. Millions of dollars spent on staffing and “treatment” for people who will never return to society.

    Why are we wasting tax payer money to pay staff, staff benefits, retirements etc for programs that are “bettering” people who again. will never leave the walls of institutalization.

    Whatever happened to checker boards and connect four?

    1. old nurse says:

      It is not a life sentence for the crime of level 3 sex offender. Change the law then you would not have to treat them to keep them locked up. If you are not going to be able to change the law then be prepared for the bill for treatment.

      1. Greg Applekamp says:

        Old Nurse-Being that you are an old nurse you would think you would be educated on just what St. Peter is- Resident’s of St. Peter have been Civally Commited by the courts. Being a level 3 sex offender has nothing to do with being in St. Peter for treatment. Ther are dozens of level 3 sex offenders in state prisons and in our community.

        The residents of St. Peter DON”T LEAVE. they are there for life. Do some research and see how many people that are commited to St. Peter ever return to the community.. you’ll find it’s next to zero.

        Again. why treatment costs in st. peter and the sister program at Moose Lake are under fire and under the radar in the house and senate. There is no reason to waste millions of tax payer dollars on treatment for people who will never leave the walls of that facility. Here take a look for yourself

        1. old nurse says:

          And if you were so smart you would realize they are there because of commitment for mental illness, not as incarceration for crimes. Usually they have already done their time. As committed there so they do not commit crimes for their illness there is a mandate to treat. Would you prefer they be out to commit crimes?

          1. Greg Applekamp says:

            again. you’re ignoring what happens to people when they go to St. Peter and Moose lake. LIFE COMMITMENT

            I said nothing about people being let out to commit crimes. The focus was the cost and WASTED tax payer dollars on extensive treatment that is typically geared toward people RETURNING to society and interacting with the public at large again. Treatment doesn’t meen hiring the extensive staffing that they do.

            Thank you-I’m done with you now

        2. Frankie says:

          @ Greg. We could just live in a right wing totalitarian system where they just take these people and shoot them as enemies of the state.
          From your old article.
          Margretta Dwyer, a former head of the sexual therapy program at the University of Minnesota, agrees that much cheaper alternatives exist to effectively treat sex offenders. She notes that it costs the state $134,000 annually to keep an offender civilly committed. “You could hire two guards in 12 hours shifts for $50,000 per year, per person and still save money,” she says. 2 guards, 12 hour shifts 7 days a week for 50000 a year? That would be 4 guards and still needing overtime at $200000 plus additional costs.
          Please notice there is no data out there for the level three sex offenders in the community what the redivism rate is.

          1. Greg Applekamp says:

            interesting Frankie… However, being that Margaretta Dwyer is a former HEAD of a sex therapy program and has connections in the state hospital she will advocate for those programs to remain in place.

            FACT: Correctional officers in the state of Minnesota work 8 hour shifts, not 12.
            FACT: $50.000 a year for a correctional officer is at the top of the pay scale. not nearly all officers make that much.
            FACT: her figure regarding overtime isn’t even valid.

            FACT: The extensive TEAMS of treatment staff that is working with that population is payed WAY more than a correctional officer is.

            FACT: 2 correctional officers working 8 hour shifts staffed 24 hours (one on the unit when everyone is sleeping and locked in their rooms mind you) and adding in overtime is still WAY less money out of tax payer’s pockets than staffing a psych team.

            Nice opinion she has though..

            1. Frankie says:

              If what she posted was such acrock why did you post the link? In regards to tour previous posts it would appear you have no clue about civil commitments versus doing a crimeand doing time. It maybe way cheaper to put these people in prision for a crime but they are civillay committed. What part of the differnce is to hard for you to grasp?
              So it is not necessarily a life sentance. Also not all level threes are locked up in civil commitment

              1. Greg Applekamp says:

                At no time did i saw anything about Level 3 sex offenders being locked up on civl commitment. Everyone at St. Peter is civally commited.

                Stick with the facts at hand and stop fabricating stories.

  5. ipmutt says:

    Mark Dayton is pure politics. He picks causes that he knows will not fly but will gain attention from voter groups and he pushes his spend spend spend policy. Tell this guy to get to work.

  6. Frankie says:

    The conservatives just have to see Dayton’s name and their ability to read and process information goes right out the window. Ines cannot even multiply by 10

    1. Betty says:

      Frankie, do you not see any issues with what is in the above story? Seems like the sightlines and wider hallways is the least of the Hospitals problems. Have to love how Dayton has to mention his vistit was planned before the doctors were released? Why would you need to state that?
      In regards to your comments the same can be said of Democrats if the article has Bachmann or Palin in the headlines

      1. Frankie says:

        Are you the one person that did not notice Palin and Bachman could not get simple historical facts correct? The presumed Democrats commenting were not the ones twisting the facts. In a facility where the staff may be attacked sight lines and wide enough hallways are a problem. Staffing a facility is a problem, but not the legislatures in a bonding year.

      2. frankie says:

        Well. Murph may be the exception.

  7. dan says:

    So you think by spending $40 million more dollars that we dont have and widen the hallways, you are going to make any major improvement to the facility?
    Maybe we should look into why we just lost 7 psychiatrists? A flawed management style in a Govt facility? It cant be!

  8. Murph says:

    He should ask Michele Bachmann to case the place.When the door closes behind her,throw away the key! One big problem solved! What was the other? Oh yeah,the remodeling. Why would they widen the hallways? Is Brodkorb’s mistress staying there now too?

  9. Greg Applekamp says:

    Simply put the sex offender treatment programs are no longer cost effective and things will change, in fact it’s a very current issue that’s being looked at by our legislative leaders for the upcoming fiscal years. I guarantee there will be major changes to these programs, and there should be. Sex offenders need treatment-they also need treatment that is cost effective when our tax dollars are funding these programs

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