Bruce Johnson (Part 2)
Headed an Interagency Task Force on State Hospital Closings
The Closure Czar’s Recollections
(Run time 2:42)
The whole thing started while I was Ombudsman, and there was an effort to start, at least, closing Faribault RTC in 1992. And that basically encountered some stiff political resistance and really got nowhere. And the Governor wanted to... was hoping that perhaps an interagency effort, not just the Department of Human Services, might be successful.
The other thing is the Regional Treatment Centers are all, in most cases, located in fairly small communities around the state and certainly have a very, have had a very significant economic impact in their communities.
And I think a number of legislators were seeing that deinstitutionalization was the trend and were very concerned about what that would do to the economy of their districts and some of the towns in their districts. And that's actually what got the whole effort at Moose Lake going.
The legislators from the Moose Lake area really were very far thinking. They were seeing the day when perhaps the Regional Treatment Center would close, would have probably a very devastating impact on their community, and they were looking for ways to perhaps allow that transition to occur that would be good for the residents in the Regional Treatment Center and also good for the members of the community.
So, I guess we commenced on what I, in retrospect, consider a huge mediation. We put together an interagency team. I think at one point we counted 12 different State agencies were involved. And we negotiated with 14 Counties, many cities, four or five labor unions, both houses of the Legislature, and the Governor's office.
So... and I guess my job in the whole thing was to try to mediate and find solutions. And it was really very challenging and, in retrospect, I think the most rewarding thing that's happened to me in the last ten years. I feel better about the result there than perhaps anything I've been able to do in State government.