The state's hospital for dangerous mentally ill patients has big problems. And big bucks are needed to solve them
To show why the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter needs a pricey makeover, security counselor Tim Headlee climbed down a flight of stairs in a vacated residential unit one afternoon last week, waved to staff members and guests watching from a nearby glass-enclosed observation office and then disappeared around a corner.
“It’s a blind spot,” the hidden Headlee yelled as he stood near the entrance to a two-patient bedroom. It’s also one of the most risky places to be in the state’s largest, prison-like psychiatric institution, which currently treats 369 of Minnesota’s most acutely mentally ill and dangerous patients.
Those out-of-sight corners in the hospital’s dark and drab older building are where most assaults on patients and staff occur, said Carol Olson, the hospital’s executive director. In the past five years, state officials have recorded 370 patient assaults on staff members that required medical treatment. Last year, 51 injuries were caused by patients assaulting other patients.
“We do have radios to contact other staff,” Headlee said, pointing to a transmitter on his shoulder. “But in a crisis, seconds matter.