- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

ST. PETER, Minn. (AP) - Officials are investigating a recent assault at Minnesota’s largest state psychiatric hospital that left a counselor hospitalized with serious injuries.

The assault at the Minnesota Security Hospital is the just the latest attack on a staff member. Late last week, Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials met with staff at the hospital, which treats more than 200 of the state’s most violent and mentally ill patients, the Star Tribune reported (https://strib.mn/1Sz7EtH ).

In the latest attack, a 16-year-old patient is accused of grabbing a counselor by her hair, bashing her head against a wall and repeatedly kicking her in the head.

“There are no consequences for aggressive behavior inside the hospital,” said Jennifer Munt, a spokeswoman for AFSCME Council 5, which represents 790 workers at state-operated facilities in St. Peter. “And until there are consequences, patients won’t be ready to return to the community.”

Sixty-eight hospital staffers have been injured on the job this year, including two who suffered concussions, according to Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration records.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s chief of staff, Jaime Tincher, and several state lawmakers visited the hospital Tuesday.

In a statement, Tincher said she met with patients and workers, and will take what she learned to Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith.

Tincher also said the state Department of Human Services is hiring 20 additional security counselors and 24 other clinical and support workers to improve the security of staff and the quality of patient treatment.

“These are important first steps; however we will continue to assess what additional resources are needed to improve safety and treatment at this facility,” Tincher said.

Officials with AFSCME have said the hospital needs to hire 54 security counselors to be fully staffed.

The state Department of Human Services has been working to improve safety at the hospital since late last year, when it had recorded 101 work-related injuries. It has installed cameras, established a unit to protect new patients from more violent ones, and bought protective equipment for staff.

Hospital workers say the efforts to improve safety have been hindered by rules limiting the use of restraints and seclusion. They also say safety efforts are complicated by a recent state law, known as the “48-hour rule,” which requires state facilities like the Minnesota Security Hospital to admit county jail inmates who may be more prone to violence within 48 hours after being committed as mentally ill.

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com


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