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Minnesota Department of Human Services hospitals in St. Peter and Rochester are celebrating milestones. Now in their sixth year of providing mental health care to area residents, the two Community Behavioral Health Hospitals also have a new leader.
Anthony Walters began as administrator of the facilities June 25. He replaced Carol Olson, who this spring became chief executive officer at the state-operated Minnesota Security Hospital. Walters was previously administrator of the Community Behavioral Health Hospital in Bemidji, leading it from January 2007 to June 2009.
DHS began opening the hospitals in 2006 as part of a redesign of mental health services to replace large regional treatment centers with several community-based programs. The 16-bed facilities provide short-term, inpatient psychiatric care to adults until they can return home or transfer to a less intensive environment. The smaller setting within the community allows individuals to remain close to their homes, and natural supports of family and friends, during treatment.
Walters, who has 18 years of behavioral health care experience at government, non-profit and private organizations, said he is excited to be back with DHS. Most recently he was chief executive officer of Universal Health Services, Inc., in Arkansas.
“I think the community behavioral health model does tremendous good,” said Walters, who has a master’s degree in health services administration from the University of Arkansas. “For a patient, receiving evidence-based care in a humane way is extremely important. The model is very effective at determining what patients need and seeking to partner with individuals so they can achieve recovery.”
The St. Peter hospital opened in May 2006, followed by the Rochester hospital in July 2006. In its first six years, St. Peter served nearly 1,300 people, and Rochester served approximately 1,000. The average length of stay across all community behavioral health hospitals in Minnesota is less than 20 days compared to 45-50 days at regional treatment center campuses. Less than 10 percent of patients are readmitted within 30 days of their discharge.
Olson, who led the St. Peter hospital for its first six years and in 2012 also took over Rochester, credited the communities for helping in the hospitals’ success.
“We work very closely with support systems in the community for when our patients no longer need hospital level of care,” Olson said. “We serve people close to home so that local support services, counties, families and their loved ones could continue that social connection to them, which is really important in recovery.”
DHS State Operated Services currently operates seven community behavioral health hospitals across Minnesota in Alexandria, Annandale, Bemidji, Baxter, Fergus Falls, Rochester and St. Peter.