Our editor's late father spent some time working at the Regional Treatment Center in St. Peter. His stories about the needs of the patients and occasional punch or slap from those under his care are unforgettable.
But Minnesota took some pride in the 1949 reforms that had lifted the treatment of the mentally ill and the working conditions for those who attended them. Perhaps there's no greater sign of the re-branding of the Republican Party in Minnesota than this note in the biography of former Governor Luther Youngdahl:
. . . [A]ppalled by the conditions of state mental hospitals, Youngdahl introduced a more humane concept of care. His sincere efforts to improve the lot of troubled youth, enhance public education, and give returning World War II veterans a financial boost earned this Republican administrator bipartisan respect and support. So popular was Youngdahl that he won each successive gubernatorial election by an ever-larger margin. That some conservatives found him "too liberal" didn't diminish his appeal or effectiveness.
Humane care for the mentally ill and the safety of those who provide it were once winning political platforms.
But the public employees' union representing many of those now providing the care describe a different reality in Clocking in shouldn’t mean putting your life on the line:
Safe staffing is now a hot topic being debated at the Legislature. The number of patient-on-staff assaults is surging at Minnesota Security Hospitals and psychiatric facilities. There has also been an alarming increase in violence toward health care workers at hospitals like Fairview, Regions and HCMC. The number of inmates in state prisons and county jails is also rising as corrections staff has been cut by the budget axe. Those trends should prompt lawmakers to protect the public workers who protect the public.
AFSCME is asking the Minnesota Legislature to increase funding to assure safe staffing. Keeping workers and the public safe is a core responsibility of government and it should be a funding priority. The Minnesota Security Hospital requires $10.4 million to add staff and other safety measures that protect patients. Investments are also needed for safe staffing at correctional facilities, nursing homes, hospitals, and other human service facilities operated by the state and counties.
AFSCME has created a page where readers can learn about workers' injuries on Facebook; caution: some of the comments by and photographs of injured workers are graphic. The union has created video testimonials as well.
Next week, union members will be marching for safe jobs at six sites on Tuesday. From a press release:
April 28 is Workers' Memorial Day. It's a day when the labor movement remembers all workers who have been killed or injured at work. This year, AFSCME is fighting for the living. AFSCME members who work in state-run mental health facilities are taking a beating from violent patients. The workers are fed up with management giving them lip service instead safe jobs.
Mental-health workers will be marching for safe jobs at six sites on Tuesday.
ANOKA: Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center
3301 Seventh Ave. N., Anoka
April 28 - 2:00 to 4:30 p.m.
Contacts: Jackie Spanjers, 763-227-6837; David Ruth, 763-291-7980
BRAINERD: Department of Human Services / Brainerd Campus
16515 State Ave., Brainerd
April 28 - 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Contact: Aleathea Modlin, 218-851-9584
DULUTH: DHS State Operated Community Services
Lake Ave. & Superior St., Duluth
April 28 - 4:30 to 5:00 p.m.
Contact: Chris St. Germaine, 218-590-8839
MOOSE LAKE: Moose Lake Sex Offender Program
1111 Minnesota Highway 73, Moose Lake
April 28 - 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Contact: Jessica Langhorst, 763-477-8210
ST. PETER: St. Peter Security Hospital
Minnesota Square Park
Highway 169, downtown St. Peter
April 28 - 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Contacts: Tim Headlee, 507-469-5609; Eric Hesse, 507-382-9607
WILLMAR: Outside AFSCME Office at Plaza One Mall
1305 S. First St., Willmar
April 28 - 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Contact: Cathy Malvin, 320-522-0847
Learn more about Workers Memorial Day on the Department of Labor's website:
Workers' Memorial Day is observed every year on April 28. It is a day to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the grievous suffering experienced by families and communities, and to recommit ourselves to the fight for safe and healthful workplaces for all workers. It is also the day OSHA was established in 1971. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.
Photo: Workers Memorial Day poster, via OSHA,
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