Minnesota Speciality Health System-Cambridge to begin treating new clients in residential homes

Steve Jensen, director of Minnesota Speciality Health System-Cambridge, stands in the living room of one of the homes located in Athens Township that will house new program clients. The homes feature several security measures such as alarms on doors and windows, as well as poly-carbonate glass.

Steve Jensen, director of Minnesota Speciality Health System-Cambridge, stands in the living room of one of the homes located in Athens Township that will house new program clients. The homes feature several security measures such as alarms on doors and windows, as well as poly-carbonate glass. Photos by Jon Tatting

The Minnesota Specialty Health System-Cambridge is beginning to move from its current location on East Rum River Drive South and provide services statewide in small, community-based settings.

The Health System recently signed a five-year lease agreement, with an option to renewal, on two residential properties in Isanti County in order to continue to provide program services to its clients.

One of the homes is located on 2 acres south of Stratton Lake on Lincoln Drive northeast in Athens Township. The other property, located on 6 acres, is northwest of Cambridge near Moon Lake on 336th Avenue.

Department of Human Services Deputy Commissioner Anne Barry explained the residential homes will be used to house new clients to the Minnesota Speciality Health System. She said the six current clients housed at the Health System in Cambridge are transitioning back to their respective communities across the state.

The Health System is a short-term crisis stabilization program that serves individuals with developmental disabilities who have presented a risk in the community. People referred to the Cambridge program can come from anywhere: a family home; their own home or apartment; county jail, a group home, a homeless shelter or a community hospital.

The kitchen and dining area is nice and open in the home located in Athens Township.

The kitchen and dining area is nice and open in the home located in Athens Township.

Barry said the move off the property is needed to be in substantial compliance with Olmstead Principles and the Jensen Settlement.

According to the Department of Human Services, Olmstead is a Supreme Court decision that requires states to provide services for people with disabilities in the most integrated settings in the community appropriate to their needs instead of segregating them from the public in institutions.

The department added that Jensen refers to the settlement of the lawsuit brought against what was then called the Minnesota Extended Treatment Option Program (METO) in Cambridge.

The lawsuit originated as a result of the inappropriate use of restraints and seclusion at the METO Facility. The Jensen settlement required a variety of changes, the most significant being, the closure of the METO program, improvements in staff training, the elimination of certain restraints and a commitment to use of best practices with regard to restraints and seclusion.  Finally, in the Jensen Settlement, DHS made a commitment to create an Olmstead Plan to serve people with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

Each client has their own bedroom, and will spend an average of 90 days while in treatment in the residential setting.

Each client has their own bedroom, and will spend an average of 90 days while in treatment in the residential setting.

“This model using residential treatment homes will be a new model for us, as it’s an emphasis on treatment,” Barry said. “We have had group homes and adult foster care settings around for more than 20 years, but this is an emphasis on treatment. The folks who stay in these homes will transition back out to their communities and be placed back with their families, guardians, etc. From Day 1, one of our goals is to work with them on getting them back into permanent housing situations.”

Steve Jensen, director of Minnesota Specialty Health System-Cambridge, said the residential homes are undergoing final licensing requirements and inspections, and are expected to be operational in mid-March. The Athens Township home is licensed for four clients, while the Cambridge-area home is licensed for three clients.

“It’s our responsibility to place people with developmental disabilities in the most integrative settings,” Barry said. “We serve a special population at the campus who have undergone some tragic event in their life. Virtually all the people who come to us have previously lived in the community successfully with their family or a group home setting, but something then happened, and the folks we serve are sometimes not the best in handling their expressions and emotions and end up in trouble with the law, or with a staff person that had been caring for them.

“We take people who have been committed to us by the courts, or we also accept voluntary commitments. We work with these people to help them get back into their previous living arrangements. … We help them learn to deal with their issues in a successful manner and get them stable. We also do follow-up support as needed after they leave us; most who leave our program do not come back,” she added.

The homes are filled with positive signs of inspiration and hope.

The homes are filled with positive signs of inspiration and hope.

In addition to having developmental disabilities, individuals supported by the Health System may also have some mental illness, physical disabilities or brain injury.

Jensen said the Health System is skilled and experienced at supporting their clients to move past their crises and learn the skills they need to keep it from happening again. He said every person served by the Health System has lived successfully in the community before and will live successfully in the community again.

He explained the program uses best practices and interventions specifically designed for the person to transition back home, or to a new home in a community of their choice where they can receive the level of supports they need to be successful again. In addition, the state has often been able to support people in the community so they can stay in their homes and not have to move to Cambridge or another facility.

Jensen said by becoming a community-based service, the Health System will be able to provide more integrated services with emphasis on individualized programs, positive behavior supports, jobs and a more rapid transition. Clients may then move more quickly and successfully into the most integrated settings in communities of their choice.

Clients of the program have been exploited by others; some have committed crimes but are not competent to stand trial. Many have had a recent experience with a rare but serious incident of aggressive behavior that has made it difficult to stay in their homes or keep their jobs.

Key objectives of the program include:

• Divert people referred to the program from having to leave their current homes by providing an array of support services to help them and those who support them.

• Provide temporary housing in communities as close to the person’s preferred home community as possible when diversion efforts fail or the individual is without a home when referred.

• Provide transition support for a return to the community and a home of preference in the shortest possible time. The goal is for the person to transition back to the community in 90 days or less.

• Continue to work to maintain a therapeutic relationship with an individual after he or she is stabilized and returns home or is transitioned to a new home. Cambridge will engage with the person, at whatever level may be appropriate and acceptable to the person, to help avoid future crises.

Jensen explained there will be a minimum of one residential supervisor on site at the homes at all times, and two staff on duty during the evening hours. He explained as many as 20 staff members — such as psychologists, nurses, behavioral analysts and program leads — will be in and out of the homes each day working with the clients on their program needs.

“Our staff at the Minnesota Specialty Health System-Cambridge are highly trained, and exceed their required hours every year as they are in constant training,” Jensen said.

Mark Brostrom, operations manager of Minnesota Specialty Health System-Cambridge, said the organization has met informally with some neighbors of the Athens Township home and addressed any concerns the neighbors may have had. He said future “official meet and greets” with the neighbors are being planned in neighborhoods for both homes.

Jensen said the homes are temporary residential “treatment centers” for the Healthy System clients.

“These homes are for those who have had trauma or difficulties in their life, and they enter into these positive environments filled with positive messages of who they are and who they can be,” Jensen said. “We help them build their life and teach them the skills they need to be successful in life again.”

Jensen said the residential homes are places for the client to get back hope.

“We talk to our clients and really dig deep down to figure out what happened in their life or what happened in their life that caused this traumatic event,” Jensen said. “We help them to dream again about things they can do in their life that they never thought possible. We really do have highly skilled clinicians working in our program and are highly regarded in Minnesota, as well as across the country.”

In September 2013, the state announced plans to house clients of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program on the current Health System property on East Rum River Drive South. However, in November 2013, Gov. Mark Dayton suspended the department’s plans to transfer any sexual predators to other tightly supervised facilities, such as in Cambridge, until certain conditions have been met.

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