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Letter to the editor: “Sound plans are being made for Mayview patients “


Letters to the editor
Monday, July 14, 2008

Sound plans are being made for Mayview patients

I was distressed by a recent letter regarding anticipated problems connected to the Mayview State Hospital closure (“The System for Those Displaced From Mayview Is Inherently Flawed,” July 3). When my son was admitted to Mayview, I became very involved in mental health advocacy. Because of my intense involvement in this area, I can answer unequivocally that the plans being made to provide services for those being discharged from Mayview are many and detailed, and they are reviewed regularly for validity.

It is true that the community cannot guarantee that no one ever will have problems. But none of us can guarantee that in any area of our lives. I now am friends with many people who, at one time, would have been considered unable to live in the community. Like my son, they live and work in the community and lead full and productive lives. A community atmosphere where people can succeed is as important as caring for those who find success difficult.

Interestingly, the sale of Mayview State Hospital offers an opportunity to ensure that people with mental illness receive the supports needed to live healthy and safe lives in the community. HB 1448 guarantees the Mayview property will be sold at fair market value and the proceeds used to create a Mental Health Community Services Account. These dollars will help people in current need of mental health services, as well as people needing mental health care in the future.

In a county that celebrates many warm and inviting neighborhoods, I hope that we all can welcome community-based supports into our communities.


The writer is a member of the Allegheny County Mental Health/Mental Retardation Advisory Committee.

“Warren Advocates Visit Their Legislator”

Rachel Freund wrote this for the PMHCA Observer released in June 2008.   My friend, Mary Jo, Certified Peer Specialist, and myself (Jenn, C/FST for Warren and Forest Counties employeed by Recovery Services) were the foks who attended the meeting with Rep. Kathy Rapp. I share this on here, not only for the obvious bragging rights to say that I was there, but more importantly to hopefully encourage folks to get to know who their state representatives are and what their stance is on various issues that effect not only each of us individually but also everyone collectively from the local community on up to the state and beyond that to our country.  I was surprised at how easy Rep. Kathy Rapp was to talk to, once we got started.  I was terrified at first thinking things like, ‘ok this is someone with a lot more power then I have and they probably won’t want to hear from me’  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I found that speaking with Rep. Kathy Rapp, was no different then speaking to any other professional I might cross paths with.  So, for those who might feel intimidated by the idea of talking to your representative, don’t be, they generally want to know wat the folks who they work for have to say about the job they are doing.  Letting them know you appreciate the work they do on your behalf is always a good thing but if you truely don’t agree with something they stand for let them know that as well.  They need to hear the good, the bad and the ugly’ so to speak in regards to how folks think they are doing their job.  After all, they work for us as citizens and wouldn’t be in the position they are n if we hadn’t voted them into office.

To view the complete June 2008 issue of the PMHCA Observer, click here

Warren Advocates Visit Their Legislator

On May 27, 2008 two skilled advocates from Warren, PA, Jenn and Mary Jo,

along with PMHCA staffer, Rachel Freund, met with PA House Member,

Kathy Rapp, of the 65th District.

The goal of the visit for Jenn and Mary Jo was to begin building a relationship

with their legislator. Jenn reported, “Mary Jo and I thought the meeting with

Representative Kathy Rapp was enlightening and very productive. We feel that

folks would be happy to learn about how supportive she is of the mental

health community.”

The Warren advocates wore their black “Living on $60 is No Joke” shirts and

made a good case for Representative Rapp supporting House Bill 2253, the bill

to raise the $60 personal needs allowance. “I support these efforts”, Rep. Rapp responded.

They also discussed tough issues facing the mental health community such as the need for more housing and community supports, especially in rural counties like Warren. “My concern is for people who aren’t getting what they require because of a lack of resources,” reported Rep. Rapp. “I work for the citizens of this district and I intend to make sure we that can provide what people need.”

Here are some tips for arranging a visit with your legislator:

  1. First, find out who represents you. Call TOLL FREE to Project Vote Smart: 1-888-VOTE-SMART (1-888-868-3762) – a real live person will help you figure out who your legislator is!
  2. Do your homework. Learn about their interests, their committees and their responsibilities. You can stop by their office and ask a staffer to help you find out about them.
  3. Arrange a visit. Be sure to make arrangements in advance with their staff. Plan a meeting that will last about 30 minutes.
  4. Prepare in advance. Have just one or two points you want to discuss. If you go as a group, be clear who will say what (practice ahead of time!). Be clear about what you are asking your legislator to do.

Congratulations to our friends in Warren who are working hard at advocacy in their community!

If you would like to invite YOUR legislator for a visit, we can help! Contact Rachel at 412-621-4706 x. 22 or at rfreund@verizon.net

MHA Take Action on HB1448

I received the following by email through PMHCA, but it was sent through them by MHA.

During the week of May 5, 2008, HB 1448 will be brought to the floor of the PA House for a vote. If the current version of HB 1448 passes, the community mental health system will be the beneficiary when a state owned mental health facility is sold or leased. The bill requires the reinvestment of proceeds into one-time costs related to housing options and services that support independent living. In addition to having bi-partisan support in the General Assembly, HB 1448 is supported by the entire mental health community and the Rendell administration. The links included in the message from MHA will take you to more information, or to a site to find your state reps depending on which one you click on.


Unfortunately, HB 1448 is at risk. Representative Kathy Rapp plans on introducing an amendment that would impose a moratorium on the closure or population reduction of state mental health and mental retardation facilities, pending a study to determine the prevalence of serious mental illness and substance abuse in the inmate population of state correctional institutions and county jails.


Please contact your House representative and urge his/her vote in support of HB 1448 without amendment. Not only would this amendment disrupt the current process at Mayview State Hospital, it would also extend the moratorium to reducing the census at state hospitals across the Commonwealth, which means that many people who can thrive in the community would not be given that chance. For additional talking points on why this amendment should be defeated, click here.

Stop the ammendment of HB1448

  I have received information regarding HB1448 that if it isn’t stopped could cause chaos in regards to the closure of Mayview State Hospital.  It has been brought to my attention that Rep. Kathy Rapp is attempting to get an ammendment added to HB1448 for a moratorium on mental illness among Pennsylvania inmates.  If this ammendment is added, it will bring the closure of Mayview to a screeching halt, which will in turn leave many Consumers in limbo.

  Many studies have been done on the impact of the closure of Mayview State Hospital on the communities it serves.  There have also been studies done with regards to mental illness among inmates.  Testimony regarding the impact on communities, explainiing what measures have been taken to transition Consumers as smoothly as possible from Mayview State Hospital into the community.  In short there are safety nets in place to keep these folks from falling through the cracks of the community based mental health system.

The Coalition for the Responsible Closure of Mayview State Hospital has stated the following according to imformation I received from Carol Horowitz, Managing Attorney, Pittsburgh Disability Rights Network of PA

We oppose any moratorium that disrupts the process already in progress at Mayview State Hospital.  Such an amendment would prevent the Governor and Department of Public Welfare from securing funds to develop community alternatives in order to comply with the Commonwealth’s legal obligations to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and would leave hundreds of individuals in a nether world of transition”

I may have more detailed information, but I need to check to make sure it’s ok for me to post it here before adding more.  In the meantime, I would encourage EVERYONE, especially those in the counties directly effected by the closure of Mayview, to contact Rep. Kathy Rapp of the 65th District to let her know that you OPPOSE a moratorium of this nature, and that you want HB1448 to be passed without being ammended.

Contact information for Rep. Kathy Rapp can be found on her website at …

“Mayview hearing: Money from sale should stay here, senator declares”

This article found in The Gateway Newspaper can be found in its original format at … http://www.gatewaynewspapers.com/signalitem/93999/    it talks about what should happen with any money that comes from the sale of Mayview State Hospital.

Mayview hearing: Money from sale should stay here, senator declares

By David Mayernik Jr., Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Mayview State Hospital in Bridgeville is still on track to close by the end of the year.

State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh) wants to ensure that money generated from the sale of the 335-acre property stays in the community.

In conjunction with a state Senate Democratic policy committee hearing last Thursday morning in Pittsburgh City Council chambers, Ferlo announced he has introduced legislation that would redirect funds to other community mental health facilities.

“Every sale dollar should help those who rely on mental health care services,” he said. 

Under the proposal, proceeds of any mental health facility would be deposited into one of two accounts, the mental health community services account or the mental retardation community services account.

Last August, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare announced plans to close clinical services of the civil section of Mayview by Dec. 31.

Last week’s committee hearing focused on how the hospital’s closure will affect patients and staff members.

“This is a high-impact issue,” said Ferlo.

Department of Public Welfare secretary Estelle Richman said there are currently six wards open at the hospital. The next could close this month.

Following a series of assessments, patients at Mayview are being placed in group homes, public housing or with family members.

Those in need of continuing treatment could be transferred to another hospital.

Since the closure announcement, approximately 80 patients have been discharged from Mayview, leaving 160 people still to be placed.

Richman anticipates that they will be discharged from June through Dec. 31.

“But no one will be removed from Mayview Hospital unless we can ensure their safe transition,” she said.

Mayview State Hospital, which treats patients with mental illnesses, serves 225 individuals from Allegheny, Beaver, Lawrence, Greene and Washington counties.

State officials said Mayview’s closing is part of Pennsylvania’s commitment to reduce its reliance on institutional care and improve access to home and community-based services.

Ferlo said he would like to see a redevelopment group involved in the land re-use task force so that issues of community housing can be addressed.

“I really think we can look at this as an opportunity and meet the challenge.”

The task force — which includes state Sen. John Pippy and state Rep. Nick Kotik — was formed to help guide the future of the facility.

“Send Mayview sale funds to other facilities: Ferlo”

 This article was originally found in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on April 2, 2008 and can be found in it’s original format at …. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/cityregion/s_560158.html

Send Mayview sale funds to other facilities: Ferlo
A bill introduced Tuesday by state Sen. Jim Ferlo would require that money generated from the sale of Mayview State Hospital be used for other community mental health services and facilities.Ferlo, a Highland Park Democrat, said he believes it’s important to determine where the money would go before the South Fayette hospital — or any mental health facility — closes.

Ferlo proposes depositing money from the sale of mental health facilities into the Mental Health Community Services Account or the Mental Retardation Community Services Account.

The state House is considering a similar bill, he said.
The Senate Democratic Policy Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday in Pittsburgh City Council Chambers, fifth floor of the City-County Building, Downtown, to discuss the impact of Mayview’s pending closure on patients and staff.

“Mayview remains on track to close by end of the year”

  The following article was found in the April 4, 2008 issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and can be viewed in its original format at … http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08095/870445-55.stm

Mayview remains on track to close by end of the year
Friday, April 04, 2008

Officials remain on track to close Mayview State Hospital by the end of the year, Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle Richman said yesterday.

Six wards remain open at the South Fayette hospital and plans call for closing another ward at the end of this month, Ms. Richman told a group of state legislators during a hearing at the City-County Building.

That timetable is about 30 days behind schedule, and she said officials would slow the process further if patients are “not able to move into the community safely.”

But she said the state remained “well within the framework of meeting the closure deadline of Dec. 31.”

Ms. Richman was among a number of officials who testified at a Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing about the impact of the closure. State officials announced plans last August to shut down the facility.

Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, said he requested the hearing to discuss the affect of the closure on patients and staff. Other lawmakers who attended were Sen. Richard Kasunic of Dunbar, the policy committee’s chairman, and Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.

More than 200 patients were at the hospital when the closure was announced. Ms. Richman said more than 80 people have been discharged and another 65 should be moved by the end of June, leaving 95 patients at the facility.

She said the state has hired a contractor to conduct assessments on patients that hospital clinical staff believe may be at risk if they are released to the community. Based on those results, some patients could be transferred to Torrance State Hospital.

Despite the planning process, “unexpected and unfortunate events will take place,” she said.

David Jones, a welfare department official, said one patient disappeared two days after he left Mayview and was later found in New Jersey. Pennsylvania officials worked to ensure he had appropriate care in that state, he said.

Late last year, the state also temporarily halted the downsizing of Mayview following the death of a former patient who authorities said jumped or fell from the Birmingham Bridge. A second ex-patient, released from a Mayview forensic unit used to evaluate and treat people in the criminal justice system, also was killed when he was struck by a train.

While the state is tracking former patients, Ms. Richman also expressed concern about people with serious mental illness who are not part of the closure process.

Patricia Valentine, deputy director of Allegheny County’s Office of Behavioral Health, said the county has helped to develop an extended acute care unit at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland aimed at serving patients who formerly would be cared for at Mayview. Plans also are under way for developing another extended care unit that is not based at a hospital, she said.

The county also is working to develop an array of other housing programs and services, prompting opposition in some cases from the community.

Those that have drawn criticism, she said, include a proposal to open a 14-bed personal care home in Verona for people with mental illness and to provide housing and services in about 20 apartments for former substance abusers in Swissvale and to about 17 people in Shadyside who have had mental illness or substance abuse problems.

Mayview had about 500 staff members when officials announced the closure, not counting workers in the forensic unit. Ms. Richman said the state has placed more than 100 staff in other positions.

She expressed confidence that “we will be successful in placing all the remaining employees in state jobs by the time the hospital closes.”

Mr. Ferlo noted that he has introduced legislation that would require use of funds generated from the sale of Mayview for community mental health care. State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, has sponsored similar legislation.

Joe Fahy can be reached at jfahy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1722.
First published on April 4, 2008 at 12:00 am

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