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“WSH Unit Closing”

http://timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/533909.html?nav=5006 

This article found in the Warren Times observer on August 4, 2010 talks a little more about the closing of the Warren State Hospital Forensics unit.  Parts of it are new info, while other parts are quotes from places I blogged about yesterday.

WSH Unit Closing

41 jobs will be lost in county

By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com

POSTED: August 4, 2010
Article Photos

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Photo by Brian Ferry
The Forensic Unit at Warren State Hospital is scheduled to close in October, according to a state Department of Public Welfare spokesman.

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In a move that means the loss of 41 Warren County jobs, the state has decided to close the Warren State Hospital Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center.

The closure was announced to employees on Monday and will be completed by the end of October, according to Department of Public Welfare Press Secretary Michael Race.

Warren State Hospital personnel declined comment on Tuesday and directed questions to Race.

“The Warren Forensic Unit will be closed,” Race said Tuesday. “We are, in fact, consolidating two forensic units. It will result in a cost savings to the commonwealth.”

The unit is the smallest of three in the state. It provides psychiatric treatment and evaluation of people who are “under criminal detention” with the goal of stabilizing disorders and returning them to the criminal justice system. The 25 patients from 14 counties at the medium security facility will move to a similar facility at Torrance State Hospital in Westmoreland County.

“Counties impacted by the consolidation will still have access to forensic services through the forensic center at Torrance,” Race said.

The closure and consolidation will save the state an estimated $2.3 million per year, Race said.

That the forensic unit is closing is not a sign that the entire Warren State Hospital will follow suit. “This should not be seen as some sort of harbinger of any closure of this hospital itself,” Race said. “Warren State Hospital will not be closing and there will be no changes to the civil section of the hospital.”

Race said the department will work with the 41 forensic unit employees providing “assistance for them in finding job placement” within the state hospital system or elsewhere.

In a press release, State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65th) “harshly criticized the governor’s and the Department of Public Welfare’s decision to consolidate and close the facility’s Regional Forensic Psychiatric Unit effective Oct. 31.”

“The governor’s most recent decision to close one of our state’s most cost-efficient and effective forensics units in order to preserve hundreds of millions of dollars in newly borrowed, special interest discretionary funding… is absolutely insane,” Rapp said.

She said the $2.3 million annual estimated savings will not be realized because of the loss of “family-sustaining” jobs, an increase in mental health care costs and the number of prison inmates in Warren County, and the costs to county government and family in taking up the slack in the rehabilitation process.

“Any time a state hospital is shut down or an experienced and skilled forensic unit such as the staff at the Warren State Hospital is consolidated or eliminated, it greatly increases the possibility that our most vulnerable citizens suffering from schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder and drug addiction will wind up unnecessarily incarcerated, unfairly exploited or otherwise victimized in mainstream society,” Rapp said.

Rapp spearheaded the opposition against proposals to privatize the unit three years ago.

<Article originally found in the August 4th, 2010 edition of the Warren Times Observer and could be found on their site on Aug 4, 2010 at the following address … http://timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/533909.html?nav=5006 >

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