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Spying shrinks, paranoia at work in state mental hospitals?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The state’s troubled mental health system is reeling from high-level departures and revelations that psychiatrists were investigating one another without the knowledge of the agency’s chief executive.

Dr. Suzanne Witterholt claims the state’s top medical officer, Dr. Allen Radke, asked her to investigate Dr. Steven Pratt. Witterholt works at the state’s Anoka facility and Pratt works in St. Peter. Both are psychiatrists.

Apparently in the close-knit world of mental health, nothing remains a secret for long.

Employees at St. Peter began complaining about Witterholt’s inquiries and eventually Pratt became aware of the investigation and filed a formal complaint. Pratt then hired an outside firm to investigate Witterholt, the shrink-turned-investigator. All this apparently occurred without anyone informing Deputy Human Services Commissioner Anne Barry, the executive in charge of the system.

Radke told investigators he only asked Witterholt to “see what was going on” at St. Peter and attempt to fill vacant positions. But at some point, a nurse at St. Peter referred to Witterholt as a “DHS investigator.”

Witterholt and Pratt have a bit of a history as well. Witterholt and two other women filed sexual harassment complaints against Pratt in 2006. Pratt was exonerated of wrongdoing.

The investigation into the investigation concluded that neither Radke nor Witterholt broke any rules, but department executives have since ruled that all investigations must be approved at the executive level.

Radke has since resigned to take a position in Hawaii, making him the fourth top mental health administrator to leave the department since 2010.

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