ST. PETER, Minn. (KMSP) - Funding and care for the state's most mentally ill is taking center stage at the Capitol. Governor Mark Dayton is calling for big spending increases to protect the patients and the staff who work with them.
The efforts come months after a violent assault inside the State Security Hospital in St. Peter left a staffer with a traumatic brain injury.
Kaija McMillen, 25, is a woman whose passion was to serve and work with the most dangerous of the mentally ill. She signed up for the job, but she certainly didn't sign up for what happened last July.
“I've lost everything that made me feel independent, like being a good mom,” McMillen told Fox 9. “It's changed my life probably forever."
Her brain is being monitored around the clock inside a hospital room at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.
"It's just affected every single aspect of my life. I never imagined it being like this,” McMillen said.
It was 9 months ago when she was working as what's known as a security counselor with the mentally ill at the hospital when a teen patient with a history of violence had gotten out of control. McMillen was part of a team of three trying to get the young man out into a courtyard to calm down when he snapped.
"He came at me and punched me in face and grabbed me by my hair and threw my head against the brick wall a couple times. And that's when he kneed me in back of the head. And I lost consciousness."
Doctors are now trying to get her seizures under control. Meanwhile, she is anxiously following the debate over state funding for treatment of the mentally ill. Her story apparently inspired Gov. Dayton to act.
As for her future, she has no idea what comes next.
“And now even if I end up okay physically, mentally, I don't know if I can ever do what I was working towards my entire life. I don't know if I can provide the life for my daughter she deserves. It changes everything.”
McMillen has not been able to return to work since the attack, and she needs help from her family caring for her 4-year-old daughter. She is adamant that changes get made in St. Peter to protect her fellow staffers on the front lines.