Minnesota Security Hospital needs change

  • Article by: David Proffitt
  • Updated: August 10, 2013 - 5:31 AM

My brief tenure at St. Peter showed that change will be resisted by those who need it most.

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prometheus1Aug. 9, 1310:59 PM

Former MSH director David Proffitt alleges that the good intentions and professional experience he brought to MSH were undermined by an upper administration unwilling to challenge the highly educated professional, read medical, staff that he accuses of slacking off on the job and harming patients while demoralizing lower ranked line staff. It should be noted that nearly the entire medical staff was driven off before Proffitt was asked to resign. This allows us to test his assertion by answering the good questions Proffitt poses. Minnesota taxpayers who have been following the tragedy of DHS administration of security hospital can answer them easily: “What has been accomplished over the last year since I left?” Nothing, violent incidents impacting staff, patients, community members and the community continue to increase. “Are persons served safer?” Clearly not. Patient injuries have increased. Releasing patients needing strict monitoring on a street corner outside a homeless shelter is clearly maltreatment. “Is staff safer?” Staff injuries increased in number and severity under Proffitt’s leadership and since his resignation. “Is the public safer?” Mrs. Ewing nearly stabbed to death by her patient son on a “day pass” to Seven Mile Creek Park from MHS and the residents of the Minneapolis homeless shelter would say no. “Is staff more inspired to excellence?” No. Those who can leave for other jobs have, while the rest count the days until they can retire. MSH struggles to hire competent staff and is forced to rely on tele-psychiatry to attempt to fulfill its legal obligations. “Are families more optimistic?” Not if they care about their loved ones. Are communities enriched by the facility? Having violent, dangerous patients released into the community without adequate support plans is no more enrichment than Dru Sjodin experienced from her encounter with a MN sex offender. Since the medical staff that Proffitt claims were the problem left the problems at MSH have gotten WORSE, not better. This is the same pattern that Proffitt’s leadership achieved in 2 psychiatric hospitals in Maine as reported by the Bangor Daily News and known to senior DHS administration BEFORE Proffitt was hired. Since these senior administrators remain in place…it is clear where the problem lies. The same “wisdom” that allowed DHS to hire Proffitt continues to place the patients, staff and people of Minnesota at risk. A good example of Proffitt’s professional leadership can be found by Googling Bad Dog Parenting on Youtube. This is what your Minnesota tax dollars buy under the leadership of DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. Minnesotans can judge for themselves.

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jbpaperAug. 10, 13 7:30 AM

The DHS needs a major overhaul starting at the top and going down. Very few, if any, seemed to be held accountable for what is going on. What has been going on here, and the lack of anyone being held accountable, is a big part of why people have issues with public employees. The state wouldn't be looking the other way if this was a private institution.

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briechersAug. 10, 13 8:06 AM

I don't know if his assessment of the facts is perfect, but his comments about the challenge of transforming a culture sound right to me. If people driving change are not well supported by their leaders, the people driving change are unlikely to succeed.

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supervon2Aug. 10, 13 8:52 AM

Now, can you imagine the stories that will be similar in a few years when Doctors and Lawyers and Unions figure out how to cheat Obamacare? You think this won't happen? Just look at the California Mental health system and see what happened there.

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furguson11Aug. 10, 13 8:53 AM

Nothing is going to change there until the court orders residents released because they are not getting treatment. No one in the state wants to take responsibility for that.

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owatonnabillAug. 10, 1310:03 AM

Bad as it is, the St. Peter Hospital is not in and of itself diseased. The disease is with the State Department of Human Services (DHS), an organization where incompetence and political pandering run rampant. It stands to reason that any program that DHS administers is not going to be any better than they are. Incompetence and pandering are as much a part of St. Peter as they are a part of DHS. Who could expect anything different? If you want real change, then start where it will matter--at the top. Until that happens, nothing at the bottom will really change.

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cstoney48Aug. 10, 13 2:01 PM

jbpaper said: "The state wouldn't be looking the other way if this was a private institution." Get real. No one is willing to defend St. Peter and the DHS, but to assume a private institution would be better supervised is ludicrous. The track record of private institutions of this type may be even worse. This is a management incompetence issue--clean out the top and begin a new!

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melschumacheAug. 12, 13 1:17 PM

I read this paragraph over and over: "The most difficult task in changing a culture is addressing the poor performance of the specially skilled and highly educated. Although their contribution is paramount, allowing their wrongful behavior to go unchallenged undermines the moral authority to address the performance of less-compensated staff. Failing to address behavior inconsistent with the vision of the organization among the ­highest-paid earns resentment from those who are working harder but compensated less." So well said - it fits many organizations, unfortunately the one I work at too.

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carealotAug. 14, 13 7:21 PM

Prometheuis, my guess, is a doctor who quit rather then change. "Running" the doctors off because they are asked to change doesn't indict Proffit. Change is not "endured by all". Some of the state employees can get pretty petty. So I wonder does the department have any goals at St Peter that show improvement? Hard to see improvement by the stories in the paper.

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prometheus1Aug. 15, 13 3:20 PM

Carealot asks a valid question. Are there any goals for MSH in St. Peter, or the DHS mental health system overall for that matter, that show improvement in the last 3 years? The reason we don't see reports on any such gains in the newspapers is that no such gains exist. That should come as no surprise because the "goals" sought by senior DHS administration, and their former employee Proffitt, are based in ideology...not reality or the best practices that society must adopt to resolve conflicting interests. It is a fine goal for people who "care a lot" to say that patients should never be placed in seclusion or have to be put into restraints such as hand-cuffs. When faced with the reality of a violent patient attempting to injure other patients, staff or the general public, we must concede that seclusion and restraints may not only be necessary but the ONLY appropriate mechanism for protecting those AROUND the patient. Proper use of restraints can keep a violent patient from injuring or killing others. Failure to use such restraints not only places others at risk of imminent harm... but can result in injury to the patient when intervention requires large numbers of staff to knock down and restrain the patient before they kill someone else. Implementation of Jesson's policies by Proffitt and his successors has resulted in severe injuries to the very same patients who avoided such when the original psychiatric staff was present and allowed to follow best practices.

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