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“Mayview remains on track to close by end of the year”

  The following article was found in the April 4, 2008 issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and can be viewed in its original format at … http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08095/870445-55.stm

Mayview remains on track to close by end of the year
Friday, April 04, 2008

Officials remain on track to close Mayview State Hospital by the end of the year, Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle Richman said yesterday.

Six wards remain open at the South Fayette hospital and plans call for closing another ward at the end of this month, Ms. Richman told a group of state legislators during a hearing at the City-County Building.

That timetable is about 30 days behind schedule, and she said officials would slow the process further if patients are “not able to move into the community safely.”

But she said the state remained “well within the framework of meeting the closure deadline of Dec. 31.”

Ms. Richman was among a number of officials who testified at a Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing about the impact of the closure. State officials announced plans last August to shut down the facility.

Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, said he requested the hearing to discuss the affect of the closure on patients and staff. Other lawmakers who attended were Sen. Richard Kasunic of Dunbar, the policy committee’s chairman, and Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.

More than 200 patients were at the hospital when the closure was announced. Ms. Richman said more than 80 people have been discharged and another 65 should be moved by the end of June, leaving 95 patients at the facility.

She said the state has hired a contractor to conduct assessments on patients that hospital clinical staff believe may be at risk if they are released to the community. Based on those results, some patients could be transferred to Torrance State Hospital.

Despite the planning process, “unexpected and unfortunate events will take place,” she said.

David Jones, a welfare department official, said one patient disappeared two days after he left Mayview and was later found in New Jersey. Pennsylvania officials worked to ensure he had appropriate care in that state, he said.

Late last year, the state also temporarily halted the downsizing of Mayview following the death of a former patient who authorities said jumped or fell from the Birmingham Bridge. A second ex-patient, released from a Mayview forensic unit used to evaluate and treat people in the criminal justice system, also was killed when he was struck by a train.

While the state is tracking former patients, Ms. Richman also expressed concern about people with serious mental illness who are not part of the closure process.

Patricia Valentine, deputy director of Allegheny County’s Office of Behavioral Health, said the county has helped to develop an extended acute care unit at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland aimed at serving patients who formerly would be cared for at Mayview. Plans also are under way for developing another extended care unit that is not based at a hospital, she said.

The county also is working to develop an array of other housing programs and services, prompting opposition in some cases from the community.

Those that have drawn criticism, she said, include a proposal to open a 14-bed personal care home in Verona for people with mental illness and to provide housing and services in about 20 apartments for former substance abusers in Swissvale and to about 17 people in Shadyside who have had mental illness or substance abuse problems.

Mayview had about 500 staff members when officials announced the closure, not counting workers in the forensic unit. Ms. Richman said the state has placed more than 100 staff in other positions.

She expressed confidence that “we will be successful in placing all the remaining employees in state jobs by the time the hospital closes.”

Mr. Ferlo noted that he has introduced legislation that would require use of funds generated from the sale of Mayview for community mental health care. State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, has sponsored similar legislation.

Joe Fahy can be reached at jfahy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1722.
First published on April 4, 2008 at 12:00 am

One Response

  1. […] Sudip Ghosh, MD wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt… Verona for people with mental illness and to provide housing and services in about 20 apartments for former substance abusers in Swissvale and to about 17 people in Shadyside who have had mental illness or substance abuse problems. … […]

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