In the Spotlight

News & Features
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Hatch alleges sex offenders were housed at nursing home
Larger view
Attorney General Mike Hatch says the situation at a nursing home in north Minneapolis, where sex offenders were housed with vulnerable adults, was like a horror movie. (MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik)
Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch Wednesday accused a Twin Cities nursing home of exposing vulnerable adults to dangerous sex offenders, who assaulted patients in some cases. Hatch wants a court to take over management of the Concordia Care Center, and he wants to know why the Department of Corrections placed dangerous sex offenders at the nursing home.

St. Paul, Minn. — Attorney General Hatch says what took place at Concordia Care Center in north Minneapolis is something out of a horror movie.

Vulnerable mentally ill adult patients were locked in a nursing home ward with sex offenders who had been placed at Concordia as patients. In some cases, the inmates physically and sexually abused other patients.

"How could you put sex offenders in with vulnerable adults? You put them in a locked ward and they're mentally ill? It just defies imagination," Hatch says.

In his complaint, filed in Hennepin County District Court, Hatch details five instances in which admitted sex offenders were placed at Concordia Care Center between 2000 and early 2004. Concordia is a 94-bed facility.

In three of the cases, Hatch alleges sex offenders stalked, fondled or otherwise assaulted other nursing home residents.

I'm really frustrated that the Attorney General didn't bother to pick up the phone and give me a call. I think it's totally political.
- Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian

In one case, Hatch alleges a 24-year-old sex offender, admitted to the home from the Carver County Jail, developed a sexual relationship with a 43-year-old patient.

Although that female patient had the mental capacity of a 10-year-old and carried a doll, Hatch alleges staff allowed the relationship to continue, and even talked about buying a "ring" for the couple -- which they described as "cute."

"This is just the most disgusting behavior I've ever heard of," Hatch says. "I pray that this is the only incident, but you know and I know it never is. You know, how many other times has this gone on ... this is just absolutely ... I can't talk about it."

Four of the five offenders named in Hatch's lawsuit were under the control of the Department of Corrections when they were placed at Concordia.

Minnesota Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian says the problems Hatch outlined in his news conference are with the nursing home -- not with her department.

Fabian says the Corrections Department places one or two inmates a year in nursing homes, and only then because the corrections system is unable to provide appropriate care for them. She says the department used Concordia because it was supposed to be secure, with around-the-clock patient monitoring.

Fabian says a public health investigation of practices at Concordia Care Center has been ongoing for a couple of months. She says Hatch just found out about the investigation, and is politicizing the situation.

"I'm really frustrated that the Attorney General didn't bother to pick up the phone and give me a call," Fabian says. "I think it's totally political."

This is not the first time Hatch and the Pawlenty administration have been at odds over corrections issues. Hatch, a DFLer, has questioned whether Republican cost-cutting resulted in the early release of sexual predators.

Concordia Care Center failed to return numerous telephone calls from Minnesota Public Radio.

Minnesota Department of Health officials say they've conducted three investigations at Concordia, each spurred by complaints.

Mike Tripple, assistant director of the department's division responsible for regulating nursing homes and other care facilities, says the first investigation centered around allegations about the sexual relationship between the sex offender and the woman Hatch characterized as having the mental capacity of a child.

In that case, Tripple says health department investigators determined there was a relationship, but investigators found no evidence of abuse in the situation.

"As we looked at it, there was information there that there were appropriate notifications, the guardians of the individuals were involved. We were not seeing anything that would lead us to conclude that this was kind of a forced sexual kind of contact," Tripple says. "There were concerns, it was validated. The home as well as the guardians did put limits on the type of behavior that would occur."

And Tripple says the sex offender involved in the relationship had been discharged from the Concordia at the end of last year.

He says Health Department investigations in April, triggered by additional complaints, did find problems at Concordia with patients' risk assessment and supervision. But Tripple says investigators did not conclude anyone was in immediate jeopardy, so the department handled its concerns by telling Concordia to change some of its practices.

"What we are asking the facility to do is one, start really looking at their assessments a little bit tighter. Can they meet the needs of any resident coming in, irrespective of whether that resident has a criminal history or not?" sayle. "We are raising concerns about the appropriate levels of supervisions. Should people be in a locked units? Should people be going out on passes? The facility ... did have a plan of correction. We have not -- just because of where we are in the cycle -- gone back and verified that the corrective action has been taken."

Tripple won't say when investigators will return to Concordia to determine whether the facility has incorporated changes regulators asked for.

In addition to allegations about lax supervision, Hatch says Concordia has significant sanitation problems -- rats, for example, roaming around, while residents were told the rodents are actually bunnies.

Tripple says investigators determined the facility was working to appropriately address those problems.

Tripple declined to comment on Hatch's assertion that what's been going on at Concordia is akin to something in a Stephen King novel. He did say at a facility like Concordia -- where nearly two-thirds of the residents have psychiatric illness -- behavior problems, including inappropriate sexual contact, are not out of the ordinary.

Hatch says he's alerting legislators about the alleged problems at Concordia, and he's hopeful lawmakers will hold hearings on the practice of placing sex offenders in nursing homes.

Saying he is unaware of how how widespread the practice of placing sex offenders in nursing homes may be, Hatch offered this advice to people with loved ones currently under nursing home care.

"If I have a relative in any nursing home in the state I would call them up and ask, 'Are you housing inmates from the Department of Corrections?'" Hatch says. "You put them there for protection. They're there because they're vulnerable. They are there because they can't fend for themselves. And I think the family has got to ask those questions, and they should ask them quickly."

"He's trying to scare the public, and I think it really is uncalled for," responded Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian.

The attorney general is hoping for an expedited hearing on his request for the court to appoint an administrator to run Concordia Care Center, and that victims be awarded judgments against the nursing home.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects