Hundreds of people with mental illness in Minnesota are being kept in state-run psychiatric facilities for months or years after they are ready to leave, according to a legislative auditor's report released Wednesday.
The audit found that failing to discharge patients or provide community housing options might violate patients' rights — and likely puts the state at risk of lawsuits.
Auditors found top administrators at the Minnesota Department of Human Services failed to adequately manage programs for people with mental illness, chemical dependency and developmental disabilities, Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/Wsl8eo) reported.
The programs, collectively known as State Operated Services, provide residential treatment for nearly 1,300 Minnesotans, ranging from small group homes to large facilities such as the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.
"Simply put, we found significant and persistent problems," Legislative Auditor James Nobles said Wednesday at a hearing of a Minnesota Senate Finance subcommittee.
According to the 136-page report, more than one-third of patients at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center are ready to be discharged but remain hospitalized, in part because of a lack of community resources.
The auditors also questioned whether Minnesota's civil commitment law violates patients' legal rights. The report notes that in Minnesota, patients who are committed as "mentally ill and dangerous" receive no routine review to determine whether they still meet the legal requirements to be committed.
Some patients have lived at the Minnesota Security Hospital for as long as 30 years with no judicial review of their civil commitment, the audit found.
Auditors said the Legislature should amend state law so that everyone who is civilly committed receives a "periodic judicial review of their need for continued commitment."
Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said she welcomed the auditor's report.
"There were no findings that surprised me," Jesson said. "Overall, we agree with the legislative auditor's report. We thought it was thorough. It was well done, and the recommendations are ones we embrace and we've already started to work on."
She noted that Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal includes new funding for transitional housing and supportive services for people discharged from state-run facilities.