MN Workers’ Comp Claims Down; State Group Home Workers an Exception

05.31.2017


By Liz Carey

St. Paul, MN (WorkersCompensation.com) - While Minnesota continues to see decreases in its workers’ compensation claims, one segment of Minnesota employees is filing more claims than ever.

Employees of government-run state homes, which provide housing for seniors and people with disabilities, have filed more than 500 workers’ compensation claims, according to a report on KMSP. An estimated 350 of those claims were for aggressive and sometimes violent behavior from a client, the report said. 

In some cases, according to the report, workers in the group homes have been attacked by the home residents. One employee, Kaija McMillen, told KMSP a resident grabbed her by the hair and slammed her head into a brick wall.

“I now have traumatic brain injury and PTSD,” she told the Fox affiliate news station. “We might as well be punching bags out there. We don’t have the proper equipment to protect ourselves.”

Claims in the past year have amounted to nearly $2.5 million, according to the report.

A spokesperson with the department, who wished not to be identified, told WorkersCompensation.com that those numbers are not unusual for a group home setting.

“Any employee injury is unacceptable, but we know that we are not alone in the challenges we face. National Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2015 (the most recent data available) shows that state-operated nursing and residential care facilities have the highest incidence of nonfatal injuries and illnesses that result in days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer (DART),” the department spokesperson said in an email to WorkersCompensation.com.

But group home staff members are limited by state law in what they can to when a client becomes violent. At best, they are allowed to hold the resident in a bear hug to subdue them. At worst, they are allowed to stand aside and call police, who can use force if necessary.

The department is asking lawmakers this year for another $10 million to adequately staff its group homes.  Additionally, the spokesperson said, the department is focusing on better training to help group home workers protect themselves from injury.

“Training is an important part of making sure our staff can safely care for our clients,” the department spokesperson said. “We focus first on training staff on how to engage with the people we serve and how to therapeutically interact with them to prevent aggressive incidents from happening. We also train our staff on personal safety and how to react if an assault occurs. This can include how to manually restrain a client in emergency situations. There are also physical modifications made to homes to improve safety for staff.”

The costs and number of claims, however, differ from the rest of Minnesota’s workers’ compensation claims. A state study, conducted each year since 1997, shows that Minnesota’s workers’ compensation claims have been decreasing.

The report shows the number of claims has fallen from 8.7 per 100 full-time employees in 1997, to 4.1 in 2015, the latest year for which there is data. But, the report showed, the cost for medical benefits per claim were 74 percent higher.

Jenny O’Brien, with the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry, told WorkersCompensation.com that she was not familiar with the group home issue, but that she would review it and comment at a later time. At press time, she had not returned that call.

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This story was updated as of 5/31/17.

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