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Forensic Unit now officially closed – TimesObserver.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – The Times Observer

Forensic Unit now officially closed – TimesObserver.com

The link above will take you to an article found in the Saturday, October 30, 2010 edition of the Warren Times-Observer.

It indicates that the closing of the Warren State Hospital Forensic Unit is completed the last client left on Thursday and the remaining unit staff left on Friday.

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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.

“Board surprised at WSH decision”

http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/533958.html?nav=5006

The following article was found in the August 5, 2010 edition of the Warren Times Observer, found on their site at the above address as of the time of this post. 

The article offers a public response from the Warren State Hospital Board members who it sems were unaware of the decision to close the WSH Forensic until after the decision had been made.  They appear to be upset by the way this was handled, and to be honest I don’t blame them.

Board surprised at WSH decision

By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com

POSTED: August 5, 2010
When the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare made the decision to close the Forensic Unit at Warren State Hospital, it did so without input from the hospital’s advisory board.

Warren State Hospital Advisory Board of Trustees President Dr. Ray Feroz, a professor of special education and rehabilitative services at Clarion University, said the announcement came as a surprise to board members.

“The advisory board was surprised by this announcement as were others,” Feroz said on Wednesday. “We are dismayed and even angered that our input wasn’t sought in this decision.”

“Warren’s been there for a hundred years and to have this office of mental health in a winding down administration come in and make this decision is just dismaying and it’s no way to do business,” he said. “The full board is dismayed that this decision was made in this manner without more local input and regional input.”

“Our sole role is to be the eyes and ears of the members of the community and be in a consultative role to the management of the institution,” he said, adding that they were not consulted.

The nine-member board does not have a great deal of power, but the members plan to do what they can to see if there is a chance the unit can remain open in Warren.

“Some people say it’s a done deal,” Feroz said. “I haven’t given up hope.”

“We will lodge our concerns” with the department and policy-makers, Feroz said. “We’re doing what we can.”

“All we can do is talk to our legislators and talk to the governor’s office and make sure they’re aware of our feelings on this,” he said.

He said it is possible that closing the unit truly makes economic sense as indicated by the department and Press Secretary Michael Race.

However, he would like to know for certain.

“We would have loved to see their data,” Feroz said.

Even if the state will realize a cost savings by closing the Warren facility and moving patients to Torrance State Hospital’s Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center, money should not be the only issue, he said.

Transporting patients from “the huge swath of counties” served by Warren State Hospital to Westmoreland County will cost the counties, Feroz said.

Not transporting patients who need the services of a forensic unit will cost even more. Counties will be “on the hook” for expensive medications for prisoners, Feroz said.

“There have to be other considerations in the decision to close a unit like this,” he said. “This decision needs to be made on more than just dollars.”

“All of the reports that we have seen have been that we run an excellent program at Warren State Hospital,” Feroz said. “I don’t know how that compares to Torrance. I’d like to see a side-by-side comparison… just to understand which is the better unit.”

According to Race, Warren’s Forensic Unit was the smallest of three in the state with 25 patients.

Torrance had 64 men in residence as of Tuesday with the capacity for 75. Race said the facility would be modified to accommodate 100.

If the money and quality of care both favor Torrance, “We probably would have supported the idea” of consolidation, Feroz said. “From a quality point of view and a cost point of view we were given no information to support that.”

“We weren’t at all included in any of this decision,” he said.

Feroz said the lack of transparency in the decision is a problem for himself and the board.

He even questions Race’s statement that the closure of the forensic unit should not be seen as a harbinger of closure for the rest of the facility.

“If this is the way they do business, what are they going to do next?” he asked.

“There are roughly 440 employees overall on board right now,” Feroz said. “This will take out 40 or 41 employees.”

“Who’s to say… that isn’t going to happen next year” to the remaining 400, he said. “These are good-paying jobs.”

Race said some forensic unit employees may find other employment within the state hospital system. Even if they do, the 41 jobs are lost to the Warren County economy, Feroz said.

“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

//

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 >

“Rapp Declares Governor’s Budget Bailout Scheme to Close Warren State Hospital Forensics Unit Absolutely Insane”

http://www.reprapp.com/NewsItem.aspx?NewsID=9373

I received an email today, August 3, 2010 from Rep. Kathy Rapp indicating that Governor Rendell has plans to close the Forensics unit at Warren State Hospital on October 31.  The above link will take you to the page on Rep. Kathy Rapp’s website.

I will be following this closely and will post wjhat I find here.

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