Minnesota Significantly Reduces the Use of Restraints

According to a recent news article in the Star Tribune, Minnesota has significantly reduced the use of restraints by 40 percent.  Incidents of restraint, seclusion and other restrictive measures dropped from 8,602 two years ago to 5,124 due to changes in state law and a massive effort by state and county officials to prevent the use of restraints. 

Minnesota was involved in a Federal Class- Action Law suit initiated by individuals and their families, living at Extended Treatment Options (METO), which resulted in a legal settlement. Minnesota changed state law in 2014 to prohibit a long list of restrictive procedures, and the state Department of Human Services launched an unprecedented outreach and training effort across the state. The agency created a special team to train staff at facilities for people with disabilities on identifying the individual needs of their clients, and to de-escalate situations without resorting to restraints. The state also required providers to report all incidents of restraint and seclusion; including emergency use of manual restraints, or the use of seat belt clips when transporting a person.   The state also began issuing licensing violations against providers that didn’t comply with the law.

“This is a paradigm shift, and something that we have wanted to see for a very, very long time,” said Roberta Opheim, of the state Ombudsman Office for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. Tighter enforcement, combined with increased awareness from the METO lawsuit, led to a “change in thinking,” said Alex Bartolic, disability services director at DHS. “We drew a very hard line in the sand,” she said. “We decided that we no longer wanted to do things that caused people pain and humiliation.”