Push for stronger security at Anoka treatment facility after two assaults by same patient

Nurses, social workers and other employees at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center argue the state-run facility serving the mentally ill is just too dangerous.

They are demanding more staff and better security after two recent assaults left many questioning their personal safety in the workplace.

“My message is we want to be heard. We need support. We care about Minnesota, the people we serve, our community…we want better for everyone,” said social worker Carlie Fergason.

The patient behind the assault, Andrew Taggart, was already charged with third degree assault for a vicious attack on a staff member that left the woman unconscious.

According to court documents, on May 9, Taggart punched the victim in the face approximately eight times in a dispute over whether Taggart would receive Tylenol for a headache. Then, this weekend, Taggart allegedly attacked another staffer in an unprovoked incident.

“It’s dire. I’ve said this over and over: If the people inside working are saying there’s a problem with their ability to do their job and keep other clients, patients and themselves safe, we need to listen,” said Carrie Mortrud with the Minnesota Nurses Association.

Organizers of Wednesday’s informational picket are asking state officials to take note of conditions inside the psychiatric hospital that caters to the most complex patients.

They say that, too often, overtaxed staff are mandated to work overtime and extra shifts. They also cite a lack of uniformed security after a contract with the Anoka Police Department ended at the start of the year.

“We’re always hopeful, never want it to come to this - to having staff attacked or patients involved in altercations. But, we’re going to do what we need to do,” Mortrud said.

READ NEXT: FOX 9 talked to officials with the DHS regarding staff safety concerns