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With An Eye to the Future

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2007: Conditions Leading to the METO Lawsuit

In April 2007, the Minnesota Office of the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities was asked to investigate a telephone complaint about the use of physical restraints on a resident of the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options (METO) facility, a residential program for persons with developmental disabilities that was established by the Minnesota legislature in 1995, on the grounds of Cambridge State Hospital after the hospital was closed.

The caller alleged that 4-point restraints, including metal handcuffs and leg hobbles were being used routinely on her 18-year-old son who had been civilly committed to the METO facility.

The caller described the bruises she discovered on her son shortly after he arrived at the METO facility, raising concerns about the "treatment and aversive programming" used by METO staff, as well as the staff's lack of regard for her authority, as his legal guardian, to withdraw her consent for the use of aversive techniques.

The caller also alleged that staff members had "expressed what [the caller] believed to be threats and coercion issued by certain METO staff" if the caller refused to sign the aversive program plan.

As the initial complaint was being investigated, a second complaint was lodged that alleged similar abuse.

David Ferleger, Court Monitor, took the photo of this residential building at the Minnesota Extended Treatment Option program in Cambridge, Minnesota, for a report to the Court.

The Office of the Ombudsman responded by conducting a year-long investigation into the allegations that included interviews with METO residents, family members, METO staff and management, case managers and experts in the field of developmental disability.

In September 2008, the Office issued its report, titled "Just Plain Wrong." The 202-page review of the facility found that staff engaged in excessive use of restraints and law enforcement-style devices on residents. The report found that 63% of the residents who were in METO at the time of the review had been restrained.