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Nurses join Dayton's call to boost security at psychiatric hospitals

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Staff at Minnesota's two biggest psychiatric hospitals joined Gov. Mark Dayton in urging legislators to approve millions of dollars in upgrades to make the facilities safer.

Nurses at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter and the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center described conditions they say are dangerous for employees and patients.

According to MPR News Jackie Spanjers, who's been a nurse at the Anoka center for 20 years, said there were 55 injuries to staff last year:

"Getting pounded in the face or head leaves you with serious injuries, some that can end your career," she said. "Concussions, headaches, memory loss, open wounds, broken bones and eye injuries are common."

Staffing shortages have been a problem at the Security Hospital in St. Peter and a nurse there said Wednesday that multiple overtime shifts per week have become the norm, FOX 9 reports.

Dayton says the facilities treat Minnesotans who are a danger to themselves and others but they've been neglected for decades.

The Anoka center was put on notice in January that it could lose federal funding if security was not improved.

The package of state construction projects that Dayton proposed in January includes $177 million to hire more staff and improve security at treatment centers. The governor's office says some of the funding would go to the 120 community treatment centers spread across the state but the St. Peter and Anoka facilities would get the largest share.

MPR says Republicans who control the House want the state to issue significantly less than the $1.4 billion in bonds Dayton has proposed to pay for building projects. Some also question whether the bonding bill is the right place to address worker safety issues.

FOX says Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper will lead lawmakers on a tour of the St. Peter hospital Thursday to show the need for improvements.

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