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“Plans for Rolling Hills site bring crowd to meeting”

This article was first published on September 25, 2008 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at the following address …. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08269/914768-55.stm   The article discussies plans for an assisted living program for folks with severe mental illnesses to aid them in transitioning into the community.

Plans for Rolling Hills site bring crowd to meeting
Mercy buying Baldwin Township property
Thursday, September 25, 2008

Residents of Baldwin Township who live near the closed Rolling Hills Manor Assisted Living Center on Newport Drive are worried about a proposal to establish a Mercy Behavioral Health facility at that site.

More than 100 people attempted to attend a community meeting held by Mercy at the center last Thursday. The crowd was so large that some people stood outside and tried to listen in through windows, said Eileen Hoellein, who lives near the center.

Ms. Hoellein said residents are concerned about the safety of the neighborhood and a potential drain on the small township’s police force.

Kimberly Flaherty, spokeswoman for Mercy Behaviorial Health, said the building would not house a crisis center, where admissions would be made around the clock and people would arrive in the midst of a crisis.

But rather, the proposed Rolling Hills facility will be a residential center where patients will live for extended periods as part of their therapy. She said it would house two types of programs — a long-term structured residence program and an extended acute-care program.

The long-term program would house people with serious mental illnesses “who are expected to need extensive treatment and services over an extensive period of time,” Ms. Flaherty said.

The program would be staffed 24 hours daily and would serve up to 14 patients age 18 years or older. This program, Ms. Flaherty said, was originally operated by the state and will employ former Mayview State Hospital personnel.

The acute-care program is “recovery-oriented,” Ms. Flaherty said, and will house patients for up to six months. There will be 16 people in that program.

“The services they receive are to improve their ability to move back into the community,” she said.

No one who requires detoxification from drugs or alcohol will be admitted to either program. The center will have a staff of 50 people, and the building will be secure, Ms. Flaherty said.

Mercy operates similar programs in other neighborhoods, including the South Side and West Mifflin, she said. Mercy has signed a sales agreement on the property, but the sale is contingent upon Mercy receiving necessary approvals from the township.

The property’s current zoning designation is R-1 residential, which permits single-family homes. But an assisted living facility or nursing home also would be permitted there if conditional use is granted, said Arnold Horovitz, attorney for Mercy Behavioral Health.

Mr. Horovitz said Mercy has submitted plans to township officials and has asked for conditional use approval. He said the planning commission will consider Mercy’s application and make a recommendation to township commissioners.

Commissioners then would hold a public hearing on the issue before they vote. Rolling Hills Manor Assisted Living Center, which closed in August 2007, operated under a conditional use provision, Mr. Horovitz said.

Township Secretary Mary McGinley could not be reached for comment, nor could township solicitor Thomas McDermott or Commission Chairwoman Eileen Frisoli.

Planning commission member Bob Wagner said Tuesday that he received a packet containing the Mercy proposal, but said he hadn’t opened it. He said he didn’t know when the commission would meet on the matter.

In the meantime, residents are worried about the center’s impact on their neighborhood.

“This is a very safe community and you can walk anywhere anytime. We don’t want to lose that,” said Alice Hradisky.

Ms. Hradisky said she is also concerned about the loss of revenue to the township. She said Rolling Hills Manor Assisted Living Center was a for-profit enterprise that paid taxes. The Mercy center would be nonprofit and exempt from taxes.

Ms. Flaherty said Mercy officials are planning another informational meeting for residents within the next week and will offer tours of similar facilities in other neighborhoods.

Mary Niederberger can be reached at mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1512.
First published on September 25, 2008 at 6:08 am
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