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“Mentally ill on hold without treatment: Norristown State Hospital lacks rooms for defendants deemed incompetent for trial”

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This July 15, 2016 article by Kaitlyn Foti found on the Mainline Media News website talks about the extremely long waiting list for beds at Torrance State Hospital and Norristown State Hospital Forensic Units.  The article talks about the impact not only to the person who is on the waiting list, but also their family, the flow of inmates through jails, and the financial impact faced by having to hold someone in jail who is on a waiting list for treatment.

“Federal suit says state provides inadequate mental health care”

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This December 1, 2015 article by Joe Smydo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette talks about a federal lawsuit being filed by the Disability Rights Network against the Pennsylvania Dept. of Human Services citing inadequate mental health care as the reason for the suit.  Warren State Hospital, Torrance State Hospital and Mifflin County Jail are where the 3 people the suit focuses on are located.

“Conference tackles mental health issues: Treatment or incarceration”


storeroom (Photo credit: suttonhoo)



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This April 19, 2013 article found on the Warren Times-Observer website talks about a conference recently held at the Interfaith Chapel on the Warren State Hospital grounds.  Based on the article it seems like the conference was for getting mental health providers and corrections related employees into the same room to discus what’s broken and what can be done to fix it in regards to the situation where corrections facilities are holding more and more inmates with mental health issues. Many questions were raised in the article.


While I’m encouraged to see these folks sitting down and talking to each other, I am concerned that there is one group that may have been overlooked.  The group I have in mind is the people who will be effected by any decisions made by the professionals who attended this meeting.  That group being the folks who receive services from these agencies.  I know Beacon Light has a Consumer Advisory board, so I suspect there is a chance that Beacon Light will at some point be including the folks they serve, but what about the other agencies represented, will they too include representative of the people they serve?




“Petrarca successfully fights closing of forensic psychiatric unit at Torrance State Hospital”


This one was news to me, I wasn’t aware of the possibility that the forensic unit at Torrance was being considered for closure.   but the above link is to a press release from State Rep Joe Petrarca indicating that he had stopped the closure



“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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“Bottom-Line Decision”


This article appeared in the August 27, 2010 edition of the Warren Times-Observer and gives some more views regarding the closing of the Forensics Unit at Warren State Hospital.

Bottom-Line Decision

Justification to close WSH forensic unit based on potential savings

By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com

POSTED: August 27, 2010
Money is the only justification given in the decision to close the forensic unit at Warren State Hospital.

The state Department of Public Welfare has quoted a savings of approximately $2.3 million per year that will be realized by consolidating the Warren and Torrance state hospital forensic units.

“Due to these tough economic times, the department (of public welfare) has had to make tough decisions on how operations will continue as funding levels fall,” Acting Deputy Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Sherry Snyder wrote in a letter to employees of the Warren forensic unit. “The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has determined that by consolidating the clinical services of the Warren RFPC (Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center) and Torrance RFPC the department can continue to provide quality consumer care while reducing the financial burden of operating two forensic centers.”

In a July 29 letter to the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, Acting Deputy Secretary for Administration Michael Stauffer said the consolidation “will provide the opportunity for financial savings due to efficiencies of scale, decrease in operational costs to maintain the separate unit at Warren RFPC and the consolidation of administrative oversight.”

In the Aug. 2 letter, Snyder said the consolidation is not about the quality of patient care in Warren.

“This closure is in no way a reflection of the quality of consumer care provided at the Warren RFPC,” Snyder wrote. “On the contrary, the hospital’s full accreditation is evidence of the high quality of care and treatment afforded forensic consumers by all of you.”

So, it’s all about $2.3 million per year.

In a response to a Right-to-Know request made by the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA), the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare cited some financial data.

“The savings estimates were based on the fiscal year 2008/2009 actual cost report from Warren State Hospital,” according to information provided to PSCOA. “The calculations for the maintenance/physical operations costs from the RFPC (Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center) unit being closed would save $1,074,214.29 and the staff position savings from the consolidation would be $1,205,627.62.”

That’s nothing to sneeze at, but will the state really realize that savings?

State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65th) doesn’t think so. Neither does the local union president representing most of the unit’s employees.

Rapp said the changes will result in a shift of costs. Maintenance of the forensic unit building and the grounds at Warren State Hospital will continue despite the unit being empty, she said. The recently enlarged unit at Torrance State Hospital in Westmoreland County will require more staff and more maintenance.

There are more than 40 employees at the Warren forensic unit.

The $1.2 million in savings from staff consolidation represents a little less than $30,000 in salary and benefits for each position.

“They’re saving this money from the staff positions,” Rapp said. “That’s kind of questionable when they’re hiring more people down at Torrance.”

According to Ed Rollinger, president of PSCOA Local SI Warren, “They’ve hired 28 staff at Torrance in the past six months.” Rapp also quoted that number of new hires at Torrance.

If those 28 new hires were made to accommodate the influx of patients from Warren, they should be counted against anticipated staffing savings.

Taking those 28 from 44 in Warren leaves only 16 positions eliminated. To generate $1.2 million in savings, each of those 16 positions would have to average $75,000 in salary and benefits.

The one-month advance notice of furloughs from the state to the union lists a total of 28 positions that will be lost at Warren’s forensic unit. According to Rollinger, as of Thursday he was not aware of any current forensic security employees at Warren being offered positions at Torrance.

Rollinger said his requests for more detailed financial figures relating to the closure have not been answered.

Even if the state will save $2.3 million, Rapp and Rollinger argue that closing forensic units is a losing proposition.

“This situation is taking place while our corrections facilities are extremely overcrowded and the state is incarcerating 10,531 inmates with a mental health diagnosis,” Rapp said in a letter to Attorney General Tom Corbett. “Add to this situation there are currently 52 people on a waiting list for a forensic bed. This waitlist has caused overcrowding in our county jails.”

Rapp said the 2,130 Pennsylvania inmates incarcerated in out-of-state prisons because of overcrowding are costing the state $48,201,900 each year.

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“WSH Unit Closing”


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


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.


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 >

“More Mayview patients to be discharged”

This article found in the September 26, 2008 issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  It can be read in its original format at … http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08270/915192-85.stm 

It discusses discharges from Mayview State Hospital, and the various settings folks are being placed in, in addition to addressing concerns about sentinal events.

More Mayview patients to be discharged
Friday, September 26, 2008

With only a few months, at most, before Mayview State Hospital is expected to close, about 91 patients remain at the facility, with more expected to be discharged this week.

Most are living in unlocked facilities in the community, according to documents distributed last Friday at a public meeting at the Crowne Plaza Pittsburgh South, Bethel Park.

Officials announced in August 2007 that the South Fayette hospital would be closed by the end of this year, and officials at the meeting said they expect to meet that deadline.

Some 18 to 20 patients will be transferred to Torrance State Hospital in Westmoreland County, but officials expect most to move to a number of housing options in the Pittsburgh area with case management or other support services.

As patients move from Mayview, their needs are assessed through a process known as community support planning.

About 148 patients have been discharged from the hospital since last year’s closure announcement, and 68 others were discharged through the community support planning process before then.

Information distributed at the meeting indicated that 68 percent of those former patients are being served by community treatment teams — mobile groups of psychiatrists, nurses, case managers and other professionals. Nearly all the rest receive some other form of case management.

About 63 percent of patients served by the community treatment teams received at least two visits a week from the team earlier this year. Those served by case managers were seen less often, with only about 15 percent visited at least weekly.

But many people leaving the hospital also have other supervision, noted Mary Fleming, chief executive officer of Allegheny HealthChoices, which has developed plans to improve behavioral health care in the five counties served by Mayview. She said 75 percent of patients leaving the hospital with community support plans live in facilities with 24-hour staff.

State officials have recently required that they or county officials agree before patients receiving community mental health care are released from case management. That directive came after a number of deaths, arrests or other serious incidents, known as sentinel events, occurred involving people with mental illness living in Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

But officials have said that those incidents have mostly involved people with mental illness who were not part of the community support planning process. They may, for example, have been released from Mayview years ago or were never hospitalized at the facility.

Among those recently released from the hospital, 80 percent believe life is better, according to survey results provided at last Friday’s meeting.

Some replied that they have more independence, while others complained of depression or the need to take medicine.

Only about a quarter of respondents said they were employed or doing volunteer work, though many of those who were not said they want to work, Ms. Fleming said.

Joe Fahy can be reached at jfahy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1722.
First published on September 26, 2008 at 12:00 am

“Troubled minds: Discharges creating treatment backlog, experts say”

The following article was found in the September 20, 2008 Johnstown Tribune-Democrat at the following address … http://www.tribune-democrat.com/local/local_story_264234435.html

The article discusses the impact of the closure of Mayview State Hospital on community based mental health services.

Troubled minds: Discharges creating treatment backlog, experts say

The Tribune-Democrat

September 20, 2008 11:43 pm

New fences at Torrance State Hospital’s fledgling criminal unit illustrate the official preparations for closing another state hospital, but local mental-health leaders say much more is needed.
Discharged state hospital patients from soon-to-be-closed Mayview State Hospital near Pittsburgh and downsized Torrance are given first priority in community programs.
The situation is creating a backlog, psychiatrists Larry Nulton and Burton Singerman say.
Not only do current facilities need expansion, but new intervention programs and treatment facilities will be required.
While the state is looking into those additions, discharges at both hospitals continue.
“The state is behind,” Nulton said at Nulton Diagnostic and Treatment Center, 214 College Park Plaza, Richland. “They should have had these programs and other supports before they deinstitutionalized.”
Closing Mayview is part of a 40-year program to move mentally ill patients out of institutions and into community settings, Deputy Welfare Secretary Joan Erney said.
Her Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services oversees the closing, working with community-based programs and local hospitals to help continue care.
“The seriously mentally ill can live very successful lives in the community if they have stable housing, support and treatment,” Erney said.
Mayview’s discharges have raised alarms in Allegheny County, where several former patients and others treated for mental illness have been involved in senseless violent crimes.
Shadyside resident Terrence Andrews told police he complained to his doctor that he felt like killing someone before he was arrested in May for the stabbing death of 18-year-old Lisa Maas.
In June, former Mayview patient Andrea Curry-Demus was accused of killing a pregnant teenage girl and cutting an infant boy from the woman’s womb.
It was among at least seven serious incidents involving former Mayview patients that triggered investigations since the state in August 2007 announced plans to close the facility by the end of this year. The investigations led to a temporary moratorium on discharges in November, and a one-month halt to new referrals to Western Psychiatric Institute of UPMC last month. Several of the discharged Mayview patients were assigned to Western Psych for follow-up.
Western Psych was just a scapegoat, Singerman insists.
“They have blamed (Western Psych) for many deaths of outpatients who were put in personal care homes after discharge from years of state hospital care, without acknowledging that closing the state hospital led to people being discharged who were too ill,” Singerman said.
“They either killed themselves or someone else because of the severity of their illness.”
Cambria County mental-health leaders agree that community environments are the least-expensive, most-effective way to treat the mentally ill.
“I think the philosophy and the theory are good,” Nulton said.
“The state has the right model. They have researched it well.”
But it’s too slow in coming, Nulton stressed, characterizing it as a “cart before the horse.”
Local advocates are pushing for more inpatient care facilities and more extensive response teams.
Memorial Medical Center’s psychiatric units often are filled because there is no facility that can accept patients ready for less intensive care, said Singerman, who chairs Memorial’s behavior health program.
Admissions at Cambria County’s long-term structured residence facility on Windy Valley Road outside Ebensburg are now limited to those being discharged from Torrence.
Singerman said what is needed is a step-down unit – a place for those who don’t need constant supervision, but aren’t ready for a group home or personal care home. His cousin, David Cutler, helped develop a step-down, or sub-acute care unit for Salem State Hospital in Oregon.
Those coming out of a short-term psychiatric hospital unit like Memorial’s can be placed in the sub-acute unit for up to three months to see if they are ready for the community or should be admitted to a state hospital. Oregon’s program was able to reduce admissions to the state hospital, Singerman said.
Newly formed Crisis Intervention Team of the Laurel Highlands is a good start, said Wendy Stewart, director of National Alliance on Mental Illness of Cambria County.
Based on the proven Memphis, Tenn., model, Laurel Highlands’ law enforcement officers have been trained to handle mental-health patients in crisis to defuse situations and get needed help.
Stewart and the psychiatrists would like local leaders to expand the program to include a 24-hour crisis stabilization unit like Memphis’, where mentally ill patients can be taken for care and evaluation. The next step would be an assertive community treatment team of professionals available 24 hours to help mentally ill people stay out of crises. The team would monitor medication and other life issues, getting help as needed.
“It’s a very expensive program to start up, but well worth sparing people the hospitalization,” Stewart said. “It’s cost effective in the end. You are keeping people out of the hospital.”

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

Important Service Area Planning Meeting Update

I received an email from Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumer Association (PMHCA) on Tuesday, April 15, 2008, containing the information included below about Service Area Planning  meetings.  I don’t know what information has changed, so be sure to check to see what if anything has changed with regards to your Service Area Planning meetings.

Changes have been made to the schedule of remaining OMHSAS Service Area Planning (SAP) meetings.  The most up-to-date information is listed below.  You are welcome to share this information with your networks.



OMHSAS SERVICE AREA PLANNING (SAP) MEETINGS Dates, Locations, and RSVP Contact Information


Thursday, April 17 – Torrance State Hospital  1:00-3:30 p.m.

Westmoreland County Community College Amphitheatre Founders Hall, 1st Floor

Parking: available in Student Parking Lot

Contact: Holly Gallardy, 724-459-4411


Friday, April 18 – Mayview State Hospital  1:00-3:00 p.m.

Radisson Hotel Pittsburgh – Greentree in the North/South Ballroom.

Contact: Dorothy Owens, 412-257-6201


Tuesday, April 22 – Danville State Hospital  10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Administration Building, Program Activity Center – 1st floor

Parking: Is available in front of Administration Building and a side parking lot, parking will be marked for anyone not familiar with the campus.

Contact: Louise Miller, 570-271-4510


Monday, May 5 – Warren State Hospital  10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Gymnasium located in the Center (Main) Building

Parking: will be in the South Center Parking lot. Signs will be placed to designate it. Additionally, security personnel will be available to direct people.

Contact: Mary Beth Zdarko, 814-726-4258


Wednesday, May 7 – Allentown State Hospital  10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Administration Building Boardroom on the ASH campus

Parking: will be available in front of the building in Lot A

Contact: Tiffany Hudock, 610-740-3400


Thursday, May 15 – Clarks Summit State Hospital  10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Hilton Scranton Conference Center, 100 Adams Avenue, Scranton, PA 18503

Parking: available in Hilton Parking Lot

Contact: Sharon Grasso, 570-587-7250

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