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“Mental health facility protested”

  I almost hated to post this article because of the stigmas and stereotyping that filled it, but I felt that folks needed to be aware of what a portion of the general public feels in regards to Mental Health treatment facilities.  I found some of the reasons that folks didn’t want this facility to be absurd and most definitely fear based instead of being based on facts.

  I know from personal experience, having grown up in a house whose property bordered on the grounds of a state hospital.  I never felt threatened by patients housed at the state hospital, and spent many days playing on the state hospital grounds having never been bothered by patients out on privelage time (spending time walking around on grounds).  It was great as a kid growing up, because the vast fields were like an extension of my own yard where kids would play and have fun.  I have parents who worked at the state at that time and I know that if they felt there was any danger of us getting hurt by the patients that we would not have been allowed to play there.

  In short, people need to realize that people with mental illnesses are no more likely to become violent towards others in the community, then someone without a mental illness is.

The article was found on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website at the following address …. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08304/923875-55.stm

Mental health facility protested
Thursday, October 30, 2008

Baldwin Township residents came out in full force Monday night, filling the Castle Shannon Fire Hall, to make sure members of the planning commission heard their fierce opposition to the residential mental health facility that Mercy Behavioral Health hopes to open in their neighborhood.

“I know that mental patients need a place to go but not in the middle of a residential community,” said Jane McMullen, a former Baldwin Township commissioner and tax collector.

Mrs. McMullen expressed the same concerns shared by dozens of other residents about safety in the neighborhood and about the facility taxing the tiny township’s fire, police and ambulance services.

“We are limited with the resources we provide,” Mrs. McMullen said.

Mercy filed an application with the township Sept. 19 to use the former Rolling Hills Manor Assisted Living Center on Newport Drive as an in-patient mental health facility that would operate two programs for a total of 32 patients.

The biggest fear among about 150 residents who attended Monday’s meeting was that patients would escape from the facility and harm someone in the neighborhood.

“There’s a lot of concern that you won’t be able to keep the people in there,” said Robert Downey, a retired Allegheny County Police lieutenant who is now police chief at Slippery Rock University. “This facility is in my backyard.”

That fear was intensified yesterday when an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that homicide suspect David Wayne Alexander of Shadyside had a court-ordered plan that required him to seek outpatient treatment at Mercy Behavioral Health.

Mr. Alexander, 40, is charged with homicide in the death of his roommate, Dawn McGuire. Her decomposing body was found Oct. 23 in Mr. Alexander’s apartment by his probation officer.Mr. Alexander had a history of mental illness and a criminal record.

At Monday’s meeting, Mercy officials said no one with criminal records or active drug or alcohol addictions would be admitted at the Baldwin Township site.

Mercy officials stressed that they expect the patients they house at the Baldwin Township facility to recover from their illnesses and go on to lead productive lives. When planning commission chairman Robert Wagner asked about the “success record” of the program, Jeff DeSantis, a unit manager for Mercy Behavioral Health, said the program is new.

Mr. DeSantis will supervise the staff at the Baldwin Township facility. Plans call for Mercy to operate a 16-bed acute care program that would house patients for up to six months.

In addition, Mercy would rent space to the state for a 16-bed long-term structured residence program for patients with serious mental illnesses who would live there for extended periods as part of their therapy.

The long-term program would employ some staff members from Mayview Hospital, which is slated to close at the end of the year, and could get some former Mayview patients.

Mercy officials have said the patients in the programs will be those who suffer from chronic mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and major depressive disorder.

A psychiatrist will visit the Mercy program every day for three hours. Those visits will take place five days each week for the state program. In addition, both programs will have on-call psychiatrists.

The staff ratio will be one worker for four patients. Nurses and security guards will be on staff around the clock. Guards will not be armed but will be trained in non-violent crisis intervention. Patients will come to the program from hospitals.

“They are people who don’t need to be in the hospital but are not ready to live independently,” Mr. DeSantis said.

Mary Jeanne Serafin, the current chief executive officer at Mayview State Hospital, will supervise the state long-term program. Ms. Serafin said the state planned to operate the program for two years and then turn it over to a private operator, possibly Mercy Behavioral Health. She said one of the reasons the program is being created is to provide jobs for Mayview employees.

Mercy attorney Arnold Horovitz told the planning commission the residential mental health facility meets the definition of a nursing home and therefore meets the criteria for approval under the township zoning regulations if conditional use is granted.

But residents argued that wasn’t the case. Susan Kindelberger told the planning commission that unless the state licenses the facility as a nursing home, it should not be considered one.

Frank Goldba, the architect for Mercy, said there would be no additions to the building. He said an enclosed garden on the side of the building would be used by patients and an additional secured garden area would be created in the rear of the building. It would be surrounded by a six-foot-high wooden fence.

The only entry for visitors would be through the main door. All visitors would be scanned with a metal detection wand.

The building will hold a commercial kitchen and laundry for patients’ services and also smaller kitchen and laundry areas for patients to learn life skills. There will also be community rooms and activity and therapy areas.

Residents raised concerns about patients being discharged into the community — with day passes or for their final discharge.

Mr. DeSantis said neither would take place. He said patients would be accompanied by staff members when they leave the facility. When they are discharged, they must have discharge plans that identify where they will be living, either with a relative or friend or in an independent living facility.

Residents also expressed concerns about their property values. Rick Sikora, a real estate agent for Keller Williams, said he had two offers rescinded on homes in the neighborhood since word of the proposed Mercy facility hit the news.

The planning commission took no action on Mercy’s proposal at the end of the three-hour meeting. It will hold a public discussion at 7 p.m. Nov. 12.

After that meeting, the commission will make a recommendation on the matter to the Baldwin Township commissioners who have a public hearing planned for 7 p.m. Nov. 17.

Mr. Horovitz said the commissioners have 45 days from the public hearing to make their decision on Mercy’s application.

Mary Niederberger can be reached at mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1512.
First published on October 30, 2008 at 6:17 am

Just a friendly reminder

November 4th is just around the corner, so I wanted to remind everyone to get out and vote!  It’s your chance to have a say in what happens in the political realm and our lives.

As a button I acquired put it, “We Recover and We Vote!”

Or in the famous words of Nike “Just Do it!”  forget about the excuses, anything short of going out and actually voting is just an excuse.

“Pa. nurses gain victory in long drive to ban forced O.T.”

This article discusses recent legislation that will go into effect July of 2009 that will ban nurses from being required to work mandetory overtime.  For granted it isn’t a mental health specific article, but it is something that would effect nurses in the mental health field in addition to other medical fields, so I thought it was worth posting here.

Pa. nurses gain victory in long drive to ban forced O.T.

Pennsylvania nurses breathed a collective sigh of relief last week with the passage of a bill banning mandatory overtime at all health-care facilities in the state.The bill, which took seven years to pass, ensures that nurses and other caregivers will not be forced to work double shifts – a common practice at hospitals and other facilities, and one that can be dangerous for nurses and patients alike.

According to a 2004 study by University of Pennsylvania researcher Ann Rogers, the risk of medical error was as much as three times higher when a nurse worked a shift of 12 1/2 hours or longer.

“Some of these nurses are working for 18, 24 hours without a break,” state Sen. Christine Tartaglione said. “And, in a lot of cases, they’re the last line of defense for a patient. If they’re tired, if they’re not on top of their games, it could be a life-or-death situation.”

Tartaglione, who was paralyzed from the waist down in an Atlantic City boating accident in 2003, felt a personal connection to the bill and fought hard to get it passed.

“When I was in the hospital after my accident, I saw how much health-care workers give,” Tartaglione said. “Every other industry is regulated except this one, and this is where it matters. This is where lives are at stake.”

The state Senate passed the bill 49-0 on Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved it 189-11 on Wednesday, and Gov. Rendell has said he will sign it.

In 2005, a report published by the Pennsylvania Department of Health showed that 13.6 percent of the state’s registered nurses had experienced mandatory overtime in the two weeks prior to taking the department’s survey.

“It doesn’t just happen once a month, it happens every week,” said Sue Dougherty, a nurse who works in the geriatric ward at Norristown State Hospital.

Dougherty has experienced firsthand the negative effects of working overtime.

“I’ve found myself falling asleep on the highway during my drive home,” she said.

Dougherty is a member of Pennsylvania’s SEIU Healthcare union, which represents more than 9,000 nurses in the state. The union, along with the Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania, spent much of the last seven years writing letters to politicians, organizing rallies and trying to gain support for their cause.

Finally having the bill passed feels great, said nursing assistant Michelle Sisco.

Sisco, who now works at the Brighten at Ambler Nursing Home in Ambler, previously worked in facilities that mandated overtime.

“They don’t care if you have to go pick up your children or take care of someone who’s sick,” she said. “They don’t care if you have somewhere else you need to be. If you’re mandated to work, you have to work.”

Gov. Rendell has pledged to sign the mandatory-overtime ban into law this week. After that, health-care facilities will be given time to hire more nurses – because understaffing is one of the main reasons that mandatory overtime became a problem in the first place.

The ban will go into effect July 1, 2009.

“This will change things greatly,” Sisco said. “I just pray that

we’ll find a way to solve some of the other problems in the health industry, too.”


I have a request for info

Since starting this blog, I’ve had several folks who asked for ideas on how to learn about former state hospital patients for genealogy or other reasons.

I was wondering if anyone knew of some good resources that I could list on this blog where folks might be able to start looking for the information they are looking for.

Ideas I’ve offered in the past include checking with local historical societies, reference rooms in libraries, digging through census for the area the state hospital is located at, but I would like to be able to offer something a little more solid.

If anyone has any resources that might be helpful, specifically for PA State Hospitals, but anyone with ideas from other states might be able to be utilized here in PA so I’ll consider any info offered.  This just isn’t something I know a lot about, which is why I’m asking for help from my readers.

All comments are moderated so readers don’t have to read spam about viagra and “miracle cures”, but I generally allow any comment that seems to be on the up and up.  So don’t panic if your comment doesn’t come up instantly.

Thanks in advance!

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