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“Bottom-Line Decision”

http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/534782.html?showlayout=0

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 Forensic Unit: A Letter to the editor

I thought this was a well thought out letter found in the August 14, 2010 edition of the Warren Times Observer.

WSH forensic unit
POSTED: August 14, 2010 Email: “WSH forensic unit”

Dear editor:

I am a past/retired employee of Warren State Hospital. I am also “one”of many employees that were injured by the hands of a patient.

Without getting into details of my incident, know that the patient that injured me was a female and because we had no female forensic unit she ended up at Torrence State Hospital.

I guess what I’m saying now and then is why didn’t Warren State Hospital open up the other half of the forensic unit for the female population in this area.

I have been in the forensic unit numerous times and know that it is possible to do such. I also know (read the police blotter) that I am not the only employee to get hurt by a female.

The Warren County Jail is not equipped to take care of these “girls/ladies.” Warren State Hospital could be. Fight for our hospital and the jobs that are being lost.

These are good, dedicated employees that don’t deserve to lose their jobs. transfer to a different job (Torrence), maybe, or stand in an unemployment line a bigger maybe yet.

Thank you,

Lucy Rudolph

P.S. My thoughts on will they close Warren State Hospital entirely. If they can undermine the forensic unit, they can undermine the hospital also. Better start looking now.

“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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