Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center, the state’s second-largest psychiatric hospital, has been spared the loss of millions of dollars in crucial federal funding under an agreement reached Tuesday to rectify serious lapses in patient care and safety.

The deal, reached after months of discussion, extends federal oversight of the hospital through May 2018 and requires Minnesota to develop a detailed plan for correcting deficiencies. It also means the 110-bed hospital, which treats some of the most psychiatrically complex patients in the state, will be allowed to continue to be reimbursed through Medicaid and Medicare, the federal government insurance programs.

After conducting on-site reviews of Anoka-Metro last year, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) warned Minnesota that it was in “immediate jeopardy” of losing its ability to bill the federal government for services, an important share of the hospital’s budget. The agency found the hospital put patients at risk by using generic treatment plans that failed to recognize their complex conditions and unique therapeutic needs, among other concerns.

“Anoka has been under increasing stress as the acuity of our patient population has increased and behaviors have become more volatile,” wrote Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper, in an e-mail to hospital employees. “The plan not only allows us to keep our federal funding, it represents another means of cultivating an environment that is therapeutic for patients and safe for employees.”

Under the agreement, an independent consultant will conduct a comprehensive analysis of Anoka-Metro’s operations, including its staff training, use of restraints and development of patient treatment plans, and work with the state on a detailed plan of correction. In addition, the hospital will contract with a full-time on-site consultant to help ensure implementation.

Though security has long been a concern at Anoka-Metro, hospital staff said conditions reached a crisis point after the Legislature passed a law in 2013 designed to reduce the population of people with mental illnesses languishing in county jails. The law, known as the “48-hour rule,” required the state to find a psychiatric bed within 48 hours for anyone in a jail who is determined by a judge to be mentally ill.

The number of injuries reported by Anoka-Metro staff to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has nearly doubled, from 38 cases in 2013 to 72 cases in 2015.

The deal with CMS was reached on the same morning that Piper traveled to Anoka-Metro to meet with lawmakers and others to make the case for $30.3 million in improvements for the facility, which state and union officials maintain has been woefully underfunded for years. These include more nursing staff, security upgrades, and a plan to free up beds by developing a new program in St. Peter for mental health patients awaiting criminal trials. These investments are part of a $177.3 million package being proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton to improve patient care and safety at mental health facilities across the state.


Twitter: @chrisseres