Minnesota's largest state agency has named a new top official to oversee mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, placing him in charge of institutions that have been dogged by complaints of negligence, maltreatment and workplace injuries.
Daniel Anderson, a veteran health administrator and executive at Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services, next month will become chief executive of health systems at the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). He will oversee 20 mental health and chemical dependency treatment programs that serve 3,350 people annually and receive more than $220 million a year in funding.
One of Anderson's immediate challenges will be to bring violence under control at the state's two largest psychiatric hospitals, the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter and the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center. Both facilities have seen a sharp rise in assaults since the Legislature passed a law, in 2013, that requires them to admit more county jail inmates suffering from mental disorders.
In July, a 16-year-old patient at the Security Hospital grabbed a female security counselor by the hair, bashed her head against the wall and kicked her in the head repeatedly, an attack that has spurred an investigation by Minnesota OSHA, the state workplace agency. The Security Hospital's license was placed on "conditional status" early in 2014 after a bloody killing in which a 41-year-old mental health patient was stomped to death in his room. State investigators faulted the hospital for neglect and lack of engagement with patients.
Human Services Comissioner Lucinda Jesson said Anderson's many years of experience in a private-sector hospital and clinic network will prove valuable as the state intensifies efforts to move more people out of state-operated facilities and into the community, where they will depend on care from private clinics. Facing pressure from a federal court, which has criticized the state for moving too slowly to desegregate care for vulnerable populations, the state has set ambitious goals to increase the number of patients discharged from both the Security Hospital and Anoka-Metro.
"I want a CEO of our health system who has a foot in both camps — solidly in our safety-net services that we have created but also in the private health care system as well, so we can best serve our patients where they can best be served," Jesson said.
Anderson spent more than 30 years as a leader at Fairview, most recently as president and chief operating officer of Fairview community hospitals. In that role, he oversaw a community health system with more than 8,000 employees.
The appointment of Anderson to a new position comes amid a broader administrative shake-up at the DHS, a giant state agency with more than 6,500 employees.
In July, Anne Barry, the longtime head of direct care and treatment — a large division that oversees mental health, substance abuse and sex offender treatment — was moved to a new position as head of community and partner relations. A 30-year veteran of state government, Barry held high-level positions in four administrations, including commissioner of health under Gov. Arne Carlson in the 1990s and deputy finance commissioner under Gov. Tim Pawlenty.