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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — State officials say they’re phasing out the use of metal handcuffs and seclusion at a secure hospital for the mentally ill in the wake of fines for maltreatment of patients.
The Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter was fined by the Department of Human Services the maximum $2,200 in December for two cases of client maltreatment. The facility’s license was then put on conditional probation for two years.
DHS officials gave an update Tuesday to the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, some of whom said they were concerned about the use of restraints and seclusion in the treatment of the state’s hardest-to-care-for patients.
Deputy Commissioner Anne Barry said the hospital will be stopping use of metal handcuffs and “spit cloths”_mesh fabric placed over the head to prevent spitting. Instead, there will be a new focus on trying to defuse dangerous situations and only using soft Velcro and fabric handcuffs in very serious situations, she said.
“There will be times when somebody is so self-injurious or so dangerous to others that you can’t negotiate with them, you can’t talk them down,” Barry said.
Since the fines and probation were ordered, another case of maltreatment surfaced involving a person who was restrained and secluded for a long time without clothing, Barry said.
Steven Pratt, the hospital’s interim medical director, said staff is being retrained. The facility wants to replace its policy of punishment and rules with more emphasis on constructive, positive interactions between staff and clients, he said.
“People don’t change when they’re comfortable. Right now people at Minnesota Security Hospital are not comfortable,” Pratt said of the staff.
Several of the hospital’s psychiatric staff recently left over differences with hospital administrator David Proffitt and a management style. The Department of Human Services ordered an investigation into claims that he was creating a hostile work environment.
Barry said her agency is hoping for investigation findings this week, but that it remains supportive of Proffitt’s approach. She said the hospital is in the process of hiring new psychiatrists.
Barry said after the hearing that she expects the department to develop benchmarks for improving patient treatment, using data on how often they are restrained or placed in seclusion.
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