DHS Inspector General Q&A on Mental Hospital Report

Updated: 05/22/2014 7:38 PM
Created: 05/22/2014 6:31 PM
By: Brandi Powell

Mental health experts are calling for changes at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.

This comes on the heels of a report by state investigators over a murder at the facility in January. It revealed one psychiatric patient killed another patient without staff noticing. The alleged killer had requested to see a doctor multiple times.

"Every which way you go, there's a brick wall," said one mom.

These mothers, who wanted to remain anonymous for safety concerns, say big changes are needed at the Minnesota Security Hospital, now.

"I've heard that improvement is needed, for a long time and it just doesn't seem to go anywhere," another mom said.

Their sons have been at the St. Peter facility for threee years. They say hospital officials aren't listening to their concerns.

"I am currently in therapy, not coping with my son's illness, coping with my interactions at St. Peter because it is so frustrating for me it has been so difficult to get the help that my son needs," the first mother said.

"National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota" or NAMI is calling on the Department of Human Services, to revamp the program.

When they're developing these individual treatment plans they need to involve the individual and the family members so that you can talk about what's worked and what hasn't worked in the past," said Sue Abderholden, Executive Director with NAMI Minnesota.

NAMI is also urging the state to assign an outside person to monitor staff.

"Is that part of what you would require?" 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reporter Brandi Powell asked Jerry Kerber, the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services. "We didn't require that it be an outsider."

"We don't want to say necessarily that somebody, just because they're from the outside is going to be better," Kerber said.

NAMI says patients need double the amount of therapy each day.

"We need to increase the therapeutic programming to at least 2 hours a day," Abderholden said.

"Will that work?" Powell asked Kerber. "You know, I think her concerns are legitimate," Kerber said. "I think what we're looking at really from the regulatory perspective is not trying to identify any magic number of hours per day."

Patients' family members, hope to see change.

"It's a very difficult situation," the second mother said.

Powell asked Kerber about the report - and the patient's death.

Kerber says it wasn't a result of there being an inadequate number of staff. He added, "The staff on duty were not doing what they ought to have been doing." Kerber also said, "The direction to employees hasn't been as clear as it ought to have been." Powell asked Kerber, "Does that mean that you are faulting people who are higher up then, for not directing them well enough?" Kerber responded, "We, in our report, are drawing a very close bead on the leadership within the facility," Kerber said. "We have been hearing too many times that the staff, from the staff, that they don't know what they're supposed to do."

This week, Commissioner Lucinda Jesson extended the hospital's conditional status through the end of 2016 - basically keeping the facility on probation.

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