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“Prison board reviews policies”

http://www.theprogressnews.com/default.asp?read=23872

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”

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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“Forensic closure at WSH on track”

http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/534494.html?nav=5006 

This article found in the August 19, 2010 edition of the Warren Times Observer indiates efforts are being made to stop the closing of the WSH Forensic unit, but it is looking grim for the unit

Forensic closure at WSH on track

But effort continues on several fronts to derail decision

By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com

POSTED: August 19, 2010

//

The efforts of the board of trustees, the correctional officers union, and a state representative have not swayed state decision-makers from closing the Warren State Hospital Forensic Unit.

As of Wednesday, the schedule for the closing of the unit is unchanged.

“The consolidation of the forensic unit is moving forward as planned and remains on track to be completed by the end of October,” Department of Public Welfare Director of Communications Michael Race said.

In a decision announced to employees on Aug. 2, the unit will close and the patients will be moved to a forensic unit at Torrance State Hospital in Westmoreland County.

There were 25 patients being treated in the Warren unit at the time of the announcement.

Forensic units allow for the treatment of people who are under criminal detention with the goal of stabilizing disorders and returning the patients to the criminal justice system.

The forensic unit at Warren State Hospital is the smallest of three in the state; The 25 patients came from 14 counties.

Torrance, which currently houses 64 patients and has capacity for 75, will be expanded to accommodate the consolidation.

Public hearings are not mandated prior to the closure of the unit, according to Race.

“No public hearings are legally required or scheduled,” he said. “DPW officials have been in routine contact with PSCOA representatives and any concerned elected officials regarding the consolidation plans. We will continue to discuss any emerging issues with them or any other concerned parties as the consolidation moves forward.”

The hospital’s board of trustees has already made known its immediate wishes, calling the decision “heavy-handed.”

“We respectfully request that this decision to close the forensic unit at Warren State Hospital be postponed until a comprehensive analysis can be completed,” the board members wrote in a letter to Gov. Ed Rendell and copied to Acting DPW Secretary Harriet Dichter, Lt. Gov. Joe Scarnati, State Sen. Mary Jo White, State Rep. Kathy Rapp, the Warren County Commissioners, and Hospital CEO Charlotte Uber. “We are disappointed by the lack of transparency and arbitrary tactics used in this closure of the forensic unit at Warren State Hospital.”

The trustees said they should have been involved in the decision. “The role of the advisory board is to provide counsel and input to the hospital management and, by extension, the larger Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services of DPW,” according to the letter. “We would certainly have been willing to participate in discussion and give fair hearing to the DPW management analysis in this matter.”

Rapp (R-65th) needs no prompting from her constituents.

“I’m again embroiled in this battle,” Rapp said Wednesday. “I’m trying to do what I can to support our employees at the forensic unit.”

Those efforts include working with the board of trustees, the PSCOA locally and in Harrisburg, preparing information and sending it to Attorney General Tom Corbett, and working with Dichter.

Much of the argument for the consolidation is that it will save the state $2.3 million per year.

Rapp disputes that.

“This is just shifting costs,” she said. “That building will still be maintained. The grounds will still be maintained.”

In a letter to Dichter was a request for a full accounting of the anticipated savings, Rapp said.

The trustees would also like to see the data. They also object to finances being the only reason used to justify the closure, arguing the quality of care should have been a major factor.

Torrance will have to add staff to handle the influx of patients, and some of that hiring is already underway.

“They’ve already hired 28 new employees at Torrance while we’re in a hiring freeze,” Rapp said. “DPW is full-steam ahead.”

She said those new hires do not include any current Warren State Hospital employees.

The department continues to work with “affected staff at the unit to assist them in obtaining other state employment,” Race said.

Of the 41 employees of the unit, about 30 are represented by Pennsylvania State Correctional Officers Association (PSCOA) Local SI Warren, according to union officials.

Officials with PSCOA have been gathering signatures on petitions and passing out information.

Among the materials passed out by PSCOA is contact information for state legislators.

Rapp said PSCOA is standing its ground. “They are working very hard on their end to reverse this,” she said.

Rapp said she has support among her colleagues, but, since the issue is not a legislative one, it may not help.

“Unfortunately this is an administrative decision,” she said. When Rapp opposed plans to privatize the forensic unit a few years ago, “they claimed that I was overstepping. I reminded them this is the 65th legislative district. These are the constituents that I am representing.”

“I’m trying to do what I can to support our employees at the forensic unit,” she said. “This will be a big loss to Warren County, about $2 million in salaries alone if we lose those employees.”

Others among those she is working for, she said, are some of “Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens – people with disabilities.”

The hospital currently serves 44 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, she said.

“Just 30 years ago there were 30 state hospitals and eight corrections facilities,” she said. “Now it’s just the opposite. There are 30 corrections facilities and eight state hospitals.”

“There is plentiful research to indicate that prisons are overcrowded and the incidence of mental illness on the rise,” according to the trustees’ letter. “In light of this, DPW is closing the only forensic unit in northwest PA and reducing the number of such units from three down to two statewide?!”

 

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.

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