Dayton aims to renovate psychiatric institution

ST. PETER, Minn. (AP) — Officials at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter say the prison-like psychiatric institution needs upgrades to protect staff from the state’s most acutely mentally ill and dangerous patients.

In five years, state officials have recorded 370 patient assaults on staff members that required medical treatment, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. In 2016, 51 injuries were caused by patients assaulting other patients.

Gov. Mark Dayton is asking the Legislature to allocate $70 million this year to complete the renovation of the 150-year-old campus. It’s the most expensive project in the governor’s $1.5 billion proposal for funding public works. “We cannot defer these long-overdue investments any longer,” Dayton said.

Dayton said the renovation is critical for the safety of patients, staff and local residents, because it separates patients from “from schools, parks, neighborhoods and other public settings.”

Lawmakers began funding the renovation in 2014 when they included $56 million in a bonding bill for the first phase of constructing new residential and programming facilities at the hospital.

The first phase, which was completed in January, included 36 beds in “crisis” and “acute” residential units, and 48 beds in less-restrictive settings for patients transitioning out of the program. It also included a new campus center.

A Senate committee has proposed providing $58 million for the project as part of a $973 million bonding bill.

The second phase would include building more new residential units, reconstructing the current split-level bedroom wings into single-story spaces, remodeling other living spaces and bringing all facilities up to building-code standards.

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