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Conditions of Minn. State Hospitals Reach Crisis Point, Officials Say

Officials are facing a backlog of tens of millions of dollars worth of renovations at the state-operated health facilities.

Minnesota officials are grappling with poor conditions at many of the state’s treatment centers, including failing critical infrastructure and other problems raising health concerns.

Governor Mark Dayton has proposed a $63.4 million package to repair some of the worst issues across the state’s roughly 200 treatment facilities, which include psychiatric hospitals and group homes, although it remains unclear if lawmakers will support that plan.

The governor’s proposal followed an announcement by the Minnesota Department of Administration that approximately 20 percent of the space in Minnesota’s treatment centers are in “poor or crisis condition.”

The Department of Human Services put together a list of renovation projects that would require tens of millions of dollars in response to the problems. But the agency hasn’t received infrastructure funding through state bond bills since 2014, and officials say the funding that has been approved has been inadequate.

Acting Human Services Commissioner Chuck Johnson discussed the problem April 6 during a tour of the state’s largest psychiatric facility, the Minnesota Security Hospital, reports the Star Tribune.

“We just can’t afford to put off basic improvements any longer,” Johnson said. “Every year that you put off the work, not only do the problems get worse but the cost goes way up.”

If new funding isn’t included in a public works bond bill currently being negotiated, Johnson says the Department of Human Services will have to use money from its operating budget to fix and replace critical infrastructure like roofs, ventilation systems and plumbing.

Beyond maintenance issues, funding from the state’s new bond bill would be used to fund safety programs, including a new crisis unit for disruptive patients at the 110-bed Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center.

Overall, the Star Tribune reports state-operated care facilities provide housing and treatment to around 12,000 people suffering from conditions including mental illness, developmental disabilities and chemical dependency problems.

“We just can’t afford to put off basic improvements any longer,” Johnson said. “Every year that you put off the work, not only do the problems get worse but the cost goes way up.”

About the Author

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Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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