ST. PETER, Minn. (KMSP) - Gov. Mark Dayton brought a key Republican leader with him on a tour of the state’s largest hospital for treatment of the mentally ill in St. Peter, Minn. Monday in hopes of winning additional funding for the security hospital.
The governor wants to spend $70 million dollars for improved safety conditions and infrastructure on the St. Peter facility, which has been dogged by complaints of poor patient care and dangerous assaults on staff. But, his spending package got caught up in a bitterly, divided legislative session.
“For me, it was an eye opening experience to see the challenges firsthand,” Daudt said.
Dayton included the package in his bonding bill that stalled at the Capitol during the last legislative session. Both lawmakers report that they found the security hospital to be outdated and uninviting with poor and dangerous sight lines.
“Going into one of the seclusion rooms with hard concrete walls, it's a very bleak setting,” Dayton said. “Talk about therapeutic environment. And that is what the staff is dedicated to doing. [It’s] not therapeutic in appearance. [It] makes job doubly difficult."
A new, state-of-the art facility is going up and Dayton believes more funding will help with staffing levels and safety for both patients and workers.
26-year-old Kaija McMillen, a security counselor at the hospital, was assaulted by one of the patients more than a year ago and continues to suffer from seizures. She is still unable to live on her own and return to work.
"We just need change. So much change,” McMillen told Fox 9. “I'm afraid of someone else having to go through the same thing I am.”
The governor and union officials confirmed on Monday the number of attacks on workers have decreased in the last five months.
McMillen meanwhile will need to go a full year without seizures to get her driver’s license back and return to some sense of a normal and independent life raising her young daughter.