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Appreciating what you have

In light of my trip to Pittsburgh recently to see the traveling Willard suitcase exhibit, I’ve started to realize something that I had sadly taken for granted prior to the trip.  Where I live it’s kind of a freak thing to not have some kind of yard availible to you where you live, or a park nearby or for that matter lots and lots of tree.  I didn’t realize how much I took the ability to simply go out in my yard for granted until I went to Pitsburgh, and the area I was in had so little grass that it was a challenge to find someplace that Tippy would go potty at.  Like me, Tippy is use to having grass, though we have our own reasons for liking grass,  It never really dawned on me how lucky I am to live in a place where there is an abundance of grassy and forest type areas.  Things are much quieter where I live, and the pace of life even feels different then what I felt in Pittsburgh.  Things seem slower and in general more relaxed here.  This isn’t to say I don’t like Pittsburgh, but just that it reminded me about how simple things like grass can be missed when  visiting someplace where grass is scarce.  I was impressed by Schenly park though, not just because it gave me the ability to visit some grass, but because it gave me a taste of how folks living in the city spend time in the park.  The day I was there, there were people laying in the sun using backpacks as pillows, others were sitting on benches reading books or eating.  I thought it was neat that there was public internet access available in the park, which made me think of something I do here at home when the weather is nice but I have blogging to do.  I will sit on my porch with my netbook and enjoy the nice weather while still getting things done I need to finish.  I guess that in some ways, Schenly Park is to folks in that part of Pittsburgh, what my porch is to me, a place to kick back and relax, enjoy the weather, and experience some time in a grassy setting.

All of this isn’t to say I hated Pittsburgh, in fact just the opposite is true, I hope to go back and visit again sometime, and hopefully get to broaden my understanding about how folks live in different places.  I have lived in a rural area where I can go from seeing a shopping center to within 5 minutes be at a farmer’s market that is surrounded by farm fields.  So for me Pittsburgh felt like a whole new world that in some was was rather strange from what I have known the majority of my life.  I do look forward to the day when I can return to visit Pittsburgh though because despite it’s lack of grass and trees, it does offer a huge assortment of things to do that just don’t exist in my area.

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Update on SB 699 (revised)

I received word yesterday, that SB 699 has passed the state senate and is now on its way to Governor Randell to hopefully be signed by him. 

For more information about SB 699, please visit the PMHCA website where they offer a brief description of it on their site at … http://pmhca.org/?page=news_detail&id=720

The exhibit

despite it’s small size, the exhibit was more then worth the trip to see it.  I had read some of the information on the website, but it was very moving despite knowing something before I got here.  I took some pictures, and plan on sharing some of them once I’m back home.  For now though you’ll just have to wait a day or so for visuals.

As I walked around checking out the exhibit, I noticed the people who were around me seemed to be from all walks of life, some folks I think were trying to get a glimpse into life in the mental health system, while others may have been there to offer a bit of a tribute to the lives that were lost.

I saw young and old all there to see the exhibit.  I am planning on buying a copy of the book called, “The Lives They Left Behind” which gives background into the suitcases and the research that went into the exhibit.

Well, my pina colda bubble drink is gone and Mom looks restless so I think it’s time to explore some more.  will post more later.

Small town blogger in Pittsburgh

I fear I have officially embraced the lable of tourist …. After arriving at our hotel in Pittsburgh, my Mom, and I decided to go for a walk and “check out the lay of the land” yep that kinda screams tourist.  It was fun though, aside from looking dazed, confused and in an odd state of wonde and amazement, we found a little greek deli.  The menu had 3 kinds of gyros, a hamburger, a hotdog, and a handful of sides including onion rings and fries among other things.  a cooler containing a variety of pop and teas was in one corner.  Made me think of a place I once frequented as a kid, in terms of having a mom and pop kind of feel to it.  At any rate, I ate my first gyro, it was a chicken gyro “with everything” as the guy taking my order put it.  It was delicious, will definitely add gyros to my list of foods I like.

Walking down the street was neet as well, because people were friendly, on guy told us about how he saw the bloodhounds in action about a week ago in an incident where a police officer allgedly got ran over, but ended up being fine.  The stories I hear involving dogs are unique at times and I hjave to say that was one of the more interesting ones (most people tell me stories about their dead pets … not too fun for me, but hey I’m not the one telling it, so maybe it helps them feel better.

I am truely enjoying Pittsburgh so far, now that I’m in it and we got done dealing with our GPS unit telling us to take EVERY exit between I-80 and Pittsburgh yeah we need to figure that one out, but once we got through the outer perimeter of Pittsburgh and got to the area where our hotel is, it got easier, and more enjoyable.

Tomorrow we go to the exhibit at the Frick Fine Arts building which will be another adventure, but I think once we get there it will be lots of fun, just a matter of navigating through the city.

I will be blogging more about my experince at the exhibit, but probably not until I get back to the hotel, less stuff to carry around 🙂

Signing off for now and going to go relax and enjoy some quality time with my Mom.

“Protesters send message to ‘Pennhurst Asylum’ organizers”


The above link was posted on September 11, 2010 on the Pottstown Mercury site.  It indicates that there are protests being made against what appears to be a stigmatising and sterotyping “entertainment” piece in the works for Halloween at the former Pennhurst School grounds.

My persoal view on this is that anytime you exagerate or display something that is imitating ANY kind of disability whether it be physical, mental or intillectual in nature, the person or persons doing this are demonstrating how ignorant they are of what people with disabilities can do and in sort resorting to a method of control that says disabled people are of a lower class or value then the rest of society.  People with disabilities may need supports that non-disabled people don’t need, and tasks may need to be modified in order for the disabled person to perform them, but it doesn’t mean that any disabled person deserves to be mocked, ridiculed, or otherwise degraded because they need to go at things differently then a non-disabled person does.  Folks with disabilies have strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else and like everyone else they deserve to have their strengths recognized and built on.  I utilize a Psychiatric Service Dog and I get so annoyed when adults point at me and tell their child that my dog is “a helper dog that helps me see”  I understand that most people think guide dog when they see a service dog, but is it really neccesary to point and stare and try to pet my service dog even after I’ve stated I don’t want my dog distracted because she is working?  I know that to some this might be a trivial thing, but it is one example of behaviors expressed by the general public that get fed and reinforced when any form of disability is put on display in what amounts to nothing more then a freak show.  The general public is encouraged to laugh at what they see or make jokes, or point and stare or whatever other “interactivity” might be encouraged as actors or performers stage scenes depicting aspects of disabilities often taken out of cntext.  As a result of being taught to point, stare, laugh, comment or whatever, these learned and reinforced behaviors carry over to the real world, and people treat real live people with disabilites as though they are there for their amusement rather then treating us like humans with feelings. 

I know that not everyone points and stares, and I know there are folks out there who are not disabled who are champions for the cause of helping those of us who are gain better acceptence in a society that despite progress seems to feel we either don’t belong in their world or exsist for their entertainment.

To those who champion the various disability related causes and are always fighting for better treatment and acceptance of those with disabilities, I give a HUGE thank you, your efforts often go without thanks, but know that it is appreciated.

To those who think a disability is something meant to be put on display for your entertainment, I say enough is enough!  I assure you that if I walked up to someone who was pointing and staring at me making false assumptions and teaching their child the same, and I began to hug or otherwise touch the child while saying something like “aww what a nice  rabbit” or some other nonsense I would probably find myself in a police interrogatiuon room. So before you point and stare and teach your child to do the same, consider what you might feel if the disabled person came up without any warning and began petting your child or hugging them …. I’m pretty sure your response to that would be less then pleasant, but yet every day people with disabilities are treated like objects for entertainment.

I would rather hear a parent discretely telling their child A) it’s not polite to point or stare, and if an explenation is needed, simply tell the child that the person needs to do things a little different, but that the person is just like anyone else despite any outward appearances.  When I hear an adult taking this approach which sadly is rare, I will generally take a moment to say hello to the child and thank the parent for teaching their child to view me as a person and let them know I appreciate the kindness.

A walk down history lane


The above link,  is to a page in Wikipedia about a man named Joe Root who spent some time living off the land in Erie, PA on Presque Isle.  By now you may be wondering why I’m including this here since it seems like it wouldn’t apply to the general topic of this blog.  Well, it kind of does apply.  Joe Root, from what little I’ve read about him, apparently was an entertainer, and kids loved his ventrilloqy.  Aside from entertaining children, it seems that Joe Root was a bit of a dreamer and came up with ideas like starting a feather factory among other ideas that others would listen to but seemed to find them o be more amusing then anything.  I don’t know what kind of violence occurred, but some say that Joe Root was actually the victim of it some speculate it was to prevent him from collecting squater’s rights on Presque Isle.  The details of the incident that I’ve found have been more like implied statements then anything, but they do indicate that because of this vaguely described violance, Joe Root was sent to Warren State Hospital in Warren, PA.  He spent the rest of his life there from the sounds of things but was said to have repeatedly asked to return to his home on Presque Isle.

So when did this occurr?  well based on Wikipedia, He lived on Presque Isle in the early 1900’s and was comitted to Warren State Hospital then known as “The State Hospital for the Insane at Warren, PA”  the name was later changed to Warren Stae Hospital sometime around 1920 if memory serves me right.  Anyway, Joe Root was committed there and died in 1912.

I guess my reason for sharingthis, is to give folks an idea of how in many ways there has been some if not a lot of progress in how folks with mental illnesses are treated today compared to then in the early days of Warren State.  at that time people could be sent to a state hospital for just about any reason that anyone else thought made the person being comitted seem to not conform to society and while Joe Root seems like the kind of guy we might refer to as eccentric today, at the time, something occurred and someone didn’t agree with what happened probably claimed he was insane (using terminology for the time period) and under the authority of one person like a doctor, law enforcement or anyone that had any kind of authority he was sent to Warren State where I’m guessing he died since he died in 1912 just 2 years after he arrived at Warren State.  Today it takes a team of people to have someone admitted to a state hospital, and in the current goal is to have the person ready for discharge in roughly 6 months to a year.  Today, Joe Root would have needed to have been evaluated by a physician, and met certain criteria before he could have been admitted to Warren State.   There is a lot more to the process, but there are more steps and criteria that need to be taken and met then there once was.

For folks who are in the mental health system receiving treatment, yes, there are many changes occurring and  yes at this pointstate hospitals still exist, but to be sent to one isn’t as easy as it once was, and length of stay is much shorter on average then it was at the time that Joe Root was comitted.

I will close by saying that yes, treatment is better for folks with mental illnesses then it once was, but at the same time as with anything, I feel there is always room for improvement.

Disclaimer:  While I am currently researching the History of Warren State Hospital, I have many questions left unanswered and Joe Root is just one piece of the puzzle.  I do not intend this blog entry to be a precise or complete history, but rather a summary of things I’ve been reading about and some of my own thoughts based on experiences I have had in my own life.  In short this is an opinion post based on many pieces of information.  The information about Joe Root mostly came from Wikipedia, but some of what I said in regards to what the process of him ending up at Warren state is purely speculation based on my limited knowledge of how the system functioned at that time.  I welcome any information anyone wants to send my way, and to be honest am really kind of intrigued with Joe Root’s story so he is someone I’m looking further into. 

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“SB 699 – Action Needed for 9/14 meeting”


This call to action was found on the PMHCA website with regards to SB 699 it will be voted on in committee on Tuesday, Sept 14, 2010 more information is available at the link at the beginning of this post.

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“Prison board reviews policies”


Below is an excerpt I found in the Friday Sept. 10, 2010 issue of “TheProgress, it doesn’t say a lot, but it does indicate possible changes to how inmates are assessed after the impending closing of the Forensic unit at Warren State Hospital.  the full artical can be viewed at the link included at the beginning of this bllog entry.

The board learned that the Regional Forensic Psychiatric Centers at Warren State Hospital and Torrance State Hospital will consolidate. According to Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr., this could mean that a team from the hospital would come to Clearfield County to evaluate inmates rather than having them transported.

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Update: Traveling Suitcase Exhibit (and some personal thoughts)

On Wednesday, September 22, Dr. Yanni was scheduled to speak at 7pm, but there has been a time change and Dr. Yanni will now be speaking at 5pm at the same location.

If you were planning on going to Dr. Yanni’s lecture during the exhibit, plese note that Dr. Yanni is speaking at 5pm on Wednesday, September 22, 2010

If there are any other changes I will do my best to get them posted on here as I learn of them. 

Complete information about the traveling Willard Suitcase Exhibit can be found on the MHA of Alleghany County website ….. http://www.mhaac.net

On a side note, I have learned that it is possible to take pictures of the exhibit, so I will try and get some to share with folks who may not have been able to make it to see the exhibit.  I’ll be there during the last week of the exhibit my Mom and I are making it a little mini vacation for ourselves and will be spending a couple days in Pittsburgh playing tourist.  Small town blogger goes to the big city.  I can’t wait, only been to Pittsburgh a couple times in my life, the first time I was there I toured Three Rivers Stadium … I was a teenager and had gone with my church youth group, so that was the highlight of my first trip to Pittsburgh.  My second trip was to Bridgville just outside of Pittsburgh where I attended a School for the blind because I was having trouble with a Conversion Disorder in 2001 I was not far from Pittsburgh International Airport on 9/11 when I was at the school, and the last time I was in Pittsburgh was for the 2008 PMHCA conference that was held at the Raddison Green Tree.  So, for me, this will be my 4th time ever in Pittsburgh, and to be honest I’m REALLY looking forward to it.  For those wondering, Tippy, my Psychiatric Service Dog, will be traveling with us.  I had her with me when I attended the 2008 PMHCA conference, so this will actually be the second overnight trip I’ve taken with Tippy since she was placed with me, most of our trips are day trips to Erie and back at the furthest, so I need to be sure to get everything packed not only for myself, but fo Tippy …. she needs to have food, dishes, a toy, poop bags and her service dog gear, so in some ways it’s like packing to take a toddler when I go away overnight with her, but I don’t mind.

Sorry about the rambling, I know I don’t typically say much about my private life on here, but I thought it might be nice to share a little of myself in context with the exhibit and the trip I’m planning on taking to see the exhibit.  I plan on doing some blogging during my trip to share the exhibit and any thoughts I have about it once I’ve sen it.  any Pictures I take of the exhibit will be shared after I get home, because the memory card in my cell phone won’t work in my netbook, but I will do what I can to get some pics posted here within a day or so of getting back home.

A related post on this blog about the exhibit can be found at …. https://pamhi.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/suitcases-of-mental-patients-tell-history/

“Forensic Fight”


This article found in the Warren Times-Observer on September 6, 2010 indicates that while time seems to be running out, the fight to keep the forensic unit at Warren State open is being waged with tenacity.  While the Union Leader fights to keep the unit open, he is also working to ensure that if their efforts fail in keeping the unit open, as many of the27 forensic security employees will be able to acquire other positio.  It sounds to me like the stance is that he is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.  Petitions have been available for signing all over the Warren area I can only hope their efforts aren’t in vein.

Union leader in tough spot

By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com

POSTED: September 6, 2010

Article Photos


Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Forensic unit petition
A man signed a petition Friday to keep the Warren State Hospital forensic unit open at the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA) canopy in front of the Sill House in Warren. PSCOA members have collected more than 1,500 signatures and plan to set up the canopy in Sugar Grove and Youngsville during the coming week.


The president of Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association Local SI Warren is in a tough spot.

On one hand, Ed Rollinger is doing whatever he can to prevent the closure of the Warren State Hospital Forensic Unit and the loss of about 30 family-sustaining jobs held by his fellow union members.

On the other, he is trying to work with the state agency that announced the closure to help find new jobs for those forensic security employees.

“I can’t just say it’s not going to happen,” Rollinger said. “If it did my members would be left out in the cold.”

The Department of Public Welfare announced the closure in early August saying the unit was scheduled to be fully out of service by the end of October. The forensic unit at Torrance State Hospital has been expanded to allow Warren’s patients to be treated there.

Department officials assured employees that they would provide assistance in finding job placement for those losing their jobs.

“I’ve been trying to work on some agreement that will help my members,” Rollinger said.

In late August, he received information from DPW.

Although the department came through with some of the promised help, it was not what he and the other union members had hoped.

“Right now the only definite they’re offering is three positions for my job classification at Torrance,” Rollinger said.

The forensic unit operation at Torrance has been expanded to include Warren’s patients to its existing population of 64.

According to State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65th), in the past six months, a total of 28 people have been hired at Torrance in spite of a state hiring freeze.

According to union members, those 28 are all forensic security employees (FSEs) and all were hired before the announcement to close Warren’s unit.

There are 27 FSEs at the Warren State Hospital forensic unit, Rollinger said.

Rollinger said about a third of his union members are willing to move to Westmoreland County for jobs at Torrance.

“I would like to see them take anybody who would like to go,” he said. “I can’t see why they can’t absorb them all. That’s what I’m trying to go for.”

The union members have not been offered placement at the only other state hospital forensic unit in Norristown, Montgomery County, he said.

Other than the three FSE positions offered at Torrance, DPW is offering to hold spaces at Warren State Hospital’s civil operation for the union members.

Those are state jobs and they’re in Warren, but there’s a downside.

“It’d be a drastic pay cut for my members,” Rollinger said. He said members’ pay would go down 20 to 30 percent.

Other positions in state prisons may be available.

“We do have opportunities to place into corrections,” Rollinger said.

DPW can’t force the Department of Corrections to hold openings for the FSEs in Warren.

“They can’t freeze openings for us. It’s still a waiting game,” Rollinger said. “People would be furloughed and then go on unemployment. It’s not a ‘one day you work here, the next day you work there.'”

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