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ST. PETER – Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson visited Minnesota Security Hospital on Wednesday to highlight the urgent need to build a safer, more therapeutic facility for mentally ill and dangerous patients.
“Our bonding request is critical for the future of Minnesota Security Hospital,” Jesson said at a briefing with local reporters. “We hope legislators will recognize the importance of creating a better, safer environment for our patients and our employees.”
Minnesota Security Hospital primarily treats patients committed by the courts as mentally ill and dangerous. The current facility includes split-level residential wings, narrow stairways and poor sightlines. These features create risks for patients and employees and make it difficult to monitor patients effectively.
Governor Mark Dayton recommended the full request of $56 million to construct a new facility. Currently, the House bonding bill would fund $15 million less than the full request. The Senate bill has not been released.
During her visit, Jesson met with employees of Minnesota Security Hospital and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), which share the St. Peter campus. The bonding request would help physically separate the distinct programs onto the upper and lower campuses.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) is also seeking $7.4 million for renovations to accommodate MSOP clients in the later stages of treatment. The House bill does not fund this request.
Jesson also emphasized the importance of DHS’ supplemental budget request for $11 million to cover salary increases under current union contracts for more than 4,000 direct care workers, including MSOP and Security Hospital employees as well as employees working in state-operated services for people with mental illness, chemical dependency and developmental disabilities across the state. She warned that deep cuts to this important part of the human services infrastructure will be needed if this funding is not approved. Neither the House nor Senate included this funding in their supplemental budget bills.