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Minnesota's First Kirkbride Asylum in St. Peter

Once called the "Asylum for the Dangerously Insane." It was the first institution of its kind in the state. Authorized by the Legislature in 1866 to be built in St. Peter. All that's left is one historic central building. You can still visit the St. Peter Hospital Museum by appointment.

Tour guide Beth Zabel points out the idea of the Kirkbride style structure was to have farmland "They didn’t have good medications, they had good food, good work and good air. That’s what they had to offer."

St. Peter became so overcrowded that the state built other enormous facilities in Fergus Falls and Anoka. Both were later largely abandoned, but not demolished, yet. Today the campus is home to a highly-secure sex offender treatment program, separate from the Minnesota Security Hospital, a psychiatric facility for people committed but the court as mentally ill and dangerous.

Policymakers have put a lot of resources into making the patients and staff more secure after problems described by Emily Johnson Piper, Human Services Commissioner, as "really big increases in staff injuries and challenges in keeping and recruiting.” We toured the improvements in a more modern care setting.

This story was published August 13, 2018.

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