Why Minnesota's security hospitals desperately need $177M

- Nurses and workers at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter and at the Anoka Regional Treatment Center are pleading with state lawmakers to increase the funding to hire more nurses and improve safety.

“We’re walking around wounded and we feel like punching bags,” said Jackie Spanjers, a nurse at Anoka Treatment Center.

FOX 9 INVESTIGATORS - Trouble at Anoka Regional Treatment Center

At the state hospital in St. Peter, the nurse shortage is so severe that multiple overtime shifts have become the norm.

“Nurses come in knowing that they are going to work multiple overtime shifts a week," said St. Peter nurse Anne Mehltretter. "That’s just become kind of status quo and it’s very difficult."

Part of the problem in Anoka is the inflow of inmates from overcrowded jails in through the “48-hour rule.” It means any inmate ruled incompetent to stand trial must be moved to a mental health facility within two days. The policy mixes criminals with patients, causing violence to soar.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said lawmakers need to act. The governor has proposed an infusion of $177 million to improve both St. Peter and Anoka. Some of the money would hire additional staff, and portions of the rest would expand the hospital in St. Peter and other community hospitals around the state.

"For years they've suffered from persistent neglect and underfunding," Gov. Dayton said. “This is money that is so urgently needed to operate these facilities in a minimally safe and therapeutic environment. I think, as Jackie said, it can’t be ignored.”

Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper will lead lawmakers and labor leaders on a tour of the St. Peter facility on Thursday to show them the need to approve the funding package in this session.

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