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“Mayview’s closing brings fear and hope” – part 2 of 2

This article is the second in a 2 part series found in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  The article was printed on Monday, December 29, 2008 and can be viewed in it’s original format at the following address …  http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08364/938251-114.stm The article depicts the bittersweet drama surrounding the closure of Mayview State Hospital.  To some it is a great victory showing how far the mental health sytem has come in making progress in the treatment of folks with mental illness.  To others it is a sign of impending doom to their community and stigmas and stereotypes are running wild in their protests.  This drama leave about a dozen Mayview patients in limbo waiting to be placed in a facility that is under heavy debate or other types of settings in the community (i.e. group homes, independant living …. etc.).   I commend Mercy Behavioral health for stepping up and taking a stand to help improve the lives of people with mental illness.  I only hope that the people fighting against Mercy realize at some point they are focused on a small minority of mental health consumers when they listed the names of people with mental illness who have either died or committed crimes.  With statistics showing that 1 out of 4 people in the US have some form of mental illness, I have to wonder how many of the folks fighting against Mercy Behavioral Health either have an undiagnosed mental illness or are in denial that they have one.  Not saying that everyone is mentally ill, just that the odds of having a mental illness that is untreated are pretty high.  I’m willing to bet that given the statistics, there ar people fighting a battle not so much to protect their community from some unrealistic fear, but rather are fighting their own demons and extending the battle beyond themselves projecting it on others.  Whether it be the individual or a friend or family member of the individual these people who are fighting against the opening of a mental health treatment facility are actually jeopardizing their communities by creating a scenerio where people are more apt to go untreated or fall through the cracks which is what most likely lead up to the crimes and suicides of the folk listed by the commissioners.

At any rate, the article itself is very well written and very much worth reading if for no other reason then to get a broader picture of the dram evolving around the closure of Mayview and the void that some from the community are creating by blocking the opening of a mental health treatment facility by Mercy Behavioral Health.

Mayview’s closing brings fear and hope
Second of two parts
Monday, December 29, 2008

On the day Mayview State Hospital officially closed, 17 patients remained on the grounds, some stranded in a zoning dispute that encapsulates the struggle facing mentally ill people as they move from institution to community.

The ongoing battle pits the Department of Public Welfare and Mercy Behavior Health, the Pittsburgh firm hired to care for some of the former Mayview patients, against a group of citizens in Baldwin Township. Mercy wants to convert a closed nursing home into a long-term residence for mental patients who require 24-hour supervision.

Mercy Behavioral argues that the Baldwin residents are stirring groundless fears, that the mentally ill clients who will be living in the former Rolling Hills Manor Assisted Living Center will somehow pose a danger.

Residents, who have packed hearings to object to the proposed Long Term Structured Residence, say Mercy Behavioral and the state have not been forthcoming with details and, when faced with a zoning rule that allows only a nursing home, switched their tack to argue that the mental facility is, in fact, a kind of nursing home.

The bitterness was captured in a sign propped on an easel at a recent hearing by the township supervisors:

Our Potential Neighbors
Mercy Calls Them:
Consumer Folks

Below those words is a list of five names, starting with Anthony Fallert, a former Mayview patient who walked from a Mercy Behaviorial home and fell to his death from the Birmingham Bridge. It ends with Richard Baumhammers, currently on Pennsylvania’s death row for a killing rampage after a lifetime of mental illness.

Richard Rach, executive director of Mercy Behavioral, had to wonder at that sign. The people listed on it had already been living outside institutions. Richard Baumhammers lived with his family in Mt. Lebanon, an upscale suburb.

“Those folks were in the community. They were living independently,” Mr. Rach said. “The energy here is about the dangerousness of folks. They’re worried about someone breaking out and hurting someone. We have not had things like that happen in facilities like this.”

He said mental patients are more likely to be victims than victimizers.

Without more information, Baldwin Township residents weren’t conceding.

“They’re all people that were under this program,” said John Paravati, one of the residents leading the opposition. “According to this executive director these types of people aren’t dangerous, they’re just mentally ill. Well, there’s a whole list here of Mayview patients. Two are dead and three have committed murders. Are these the kind of people they’re going to be putting up there? We don’t know. And legally they’re not allowed to even tell you that.”

In fact, two of the five men listed on the sign have been publicly identified as former Mayview patients and both died in apparent accidents or suicides. Of the three listed who were killers, none was listed on the sign as a Mayview patient. Only one, Mr. Baumhammers, was sent to Mayview for psychiatric evaluation only after his killing rampage.

Yet the concern among residents also is based on what they see as a lack of information. State and federal laws strictly prohibit care-givers from discussing, even identifying, their patients. So residents in Baldwin Township have no way of knowing for certain what type of patients would arrive should Rolling Hills reopen as a mental health facility.

“These people can’t help they’re that way. They need somewhere where they’re going to be taken care of right and if they do get out they can get them before they run,” said Theresa Frisoli, a retiree who says she worries her house will become unsellable and her neighborhood disrupted by fear.

Where, then, should the patients be sent, she was asked.

“I say fix Mayview.”

In the final days of Mayview, Mary Jeanne Serafin, the hospital’s chief executive, cranked up a closet-sized music box. A huge, perforated disc on the front promised to play “Marching Through Georgia.” Amid rattles and plunks, the disc turned and struggled out a tune.

The contraption was sent to Mayview from Dixmont State Hospital when that facility closed. It will be sent along to Torrance State Hospital, the remaining state mental hospital in the region.

Its origins and role in the hospitals are as unclear as its future should Torrance ever close.

“Perhaps they were used for leisure, for dancing?” she said.

A therapeutic device?

“I don’t know. I really don’t know.”

Next to the music machine sat a small, wooden box, a crude electro shock unit once used on patients. The dials suggest little more than a ramping up of voltage in search of the cure to depression, a disease for which patients were once institutionalized and which now, often as not, is handled with a daily dose of some pharmaceutical.

Doctors knew the shocks worked, but weren’t altogether sure why, said the Rev. George DeVille, the now retired chaplain at Mayview.

“They would just use more and more electricity,” he said.

At one time, a third of Mayview’s patients would be there for depression.

Today, “you’ve got very few people in the mental hospitals for depression unless it’s very, very bad,” Father DeVille said.

The search for what worked for the mentally ill eventually led to today’s closing. The literature of psychiatry and social work now argue that the mentally ill can, in most cases, fit back into the societies from which they were taken, and given care in varying levels.

“Institutions are no place for people to live,” said Joan Erney, a deputy secretary of welfare in charge of the state’s mental health programs.

Getting some people out of institutions such as Mayview takes a major break with time-honored practice and the inertia that sets in after a few years in a hospital.

Ms. Serafin, the Mayview CEO, recalled one woman, a longtime patient who, learning she would leave, had extensive dental work done to make her teeth look better.

“They said, ‘Well, it didn’t really matter.’ Because they were here. And it matters now that they’re going out into the community to be with people in the community,” Ms. Serafin said.

Another patient, a woman who had been at Mayview for close to 40 years, returned to life outside the hospital and, after a while, called her caregivers to ask for help getting new clothes and to find a hairdresser.

“She said ‘I don’t look like everyone else. I need new clothes,’ ” she recalled.

Ms. Serafin’s point is that Mayview can’t be fixed because its premise is broken.

The average length of stay for a mental patient in the past decade, she said, has been six months.

People who stay longer than two years “you really start marking their stay in lengths of decades,” she said. “People get institutionalized and the idea of leaving starts to become more and more frightening and then it’s more and more difficult for people to take that step back into the community.”

At a nondescript, single floor warren of offices on the South Side, a 42-year-old woman leaned forward into a chair in a conference room and told of her new life.

“My name is Yvette Doiley,” she said. “I have been struggling with drugs and alcohol. I have been struggling with myself. I have had a hard life.”

She has been in and out of Mayview months at a time, included stay that lasted a year, as she recalls it, after she went to a hospital emergency room convinced her face was burning. Doctors diagnosed her with schizophrenia.

Mayview’s plans for patients such as Ms. Doiley range from the long-term, fully supervised residences to group homes to independent, single-home living, the kind Ms. Doiley currently enjoys.

She cautions against assuming those with mental illness act alike.

“I never heard voices,” she said.

Rather, she went through periods of what she calls “blank mindedness,” essentially blackouts with no memory of precisely what she was doing.

Once every few weeks she receives a shot of an anti-psychotic medication as well as daily pills.

Her day, for the most part, consists of “minding my own business, taking care of my own business.”

Word of the fight in Baldwin Township surprised her.

She lives in Baldwin. Nobody even notices her.

“They’re wrong,” she said. “These people just want to be to themselves also. They want to live a regular life like anybody else. They’re not violent. They don’t lash out at you.

“All they want is what they can’t get for theirselves: They want help.”

Dennis B. Roddy can be reached at droddy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1965.
First published on December 29, 2008 at 12:00 am

“Mayview to close soon; 15 patients will stay on”

This article found in the December 21, 2008 edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at the following address … http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_603873.html … is another take on the situation involving boththe closure of Mayview State Hospital, and the possible use of the former Rolling Hills facility as a long term mental health treatment facility.  I tend to like this article a little better then the article dated December 25, 2008.  Not that the date really matters much, but rather because this article seems to be more balanced in showing the various sides of this issu.  The other article seems a bit oneided, but still has it’s good points which is why I have both articles posted here.

Mayview to close soon; 15 patients will stay on

By Bonnie Pfister

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Mayview State Hospital officially closes at the end of the month, but about 15 patients will continue to live there and be treated through the spring, as county officials try to find supervised community settings for them.

The state Department of Public Welfare announced in August 2007 that it would close the South Fayette mental hospital, part of de-institutionalization that began in the 1970s and has accelerated in recent years because of legal rulings won by patient advocates. With proper treatment, supervision and support, experts say, people with mental illnesses are able and deserve to live in community settings.

“Recovery can and does happen for people living with a mental illness,” said Public Welfare spokeswoman Stacey Witalec. “As we moved through the closure, residents were only moved into the community when the appropriate level of services and supports were available to aid in their success.”

More than 200 patients have been discharged into such settings as group homes and apartments with on-site 24-hour support, officials said. The dozen or so patients still at Mayview were slated to move into the former Rolling Hills nursing home in Baldwin Township.

But the fate of that facility remains uncertain. Mercy Behavioral Health wants to turn the now-vacant building into a long-term structured residence, the most secure setting outside of a state hospital, with round-the-clock, on-site staffing that could house up to 16 people, typically for stays of about two years. Adjacent would be an extended acute-care facility, also with 16 beds, a hospital alternative where patients may stay for as long as six months.

About 100 neighbors turned out for the second of three public hearings Thursday, raising concerns about property values and safety. John Paravati, 44, a civil engineer and longtime township resident, said he was concerned about having such a facility so close to houses and school bus stops. The buffered rural setting of Mayview or a commercial zone would be a more appropriate setting, he said.

“This doesn’t belong in a residential area,” Paravati said.

Many residents’ concerns stem from cases in which people with untreated mental illnesses harm others around them. In May, Lisa Maas, 18, was fatally stabbed in her Shadyside apartment. Police charged a neighbor, Terrence Andrews, 38, who told police he had been in and out of Western Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute and Clinic dozens of times during the past decade.

In August 2007, Troy Hill Jr. of Penn Hills was charged with stabbing his 11-year-old twin brothers, killing one and severely injuring the other. Both Andrews and Hill are receiving treatment and awaiting prosecution at Torrance State Hospital in Derry Township, where all 47 of Mayview’s mentally ill patients facing criminal charges were moved last month.

“There are too many incidents where patients from the mental health field are either hurting themselves or seriously harming other people,” said Neil Rosen, an attorney representing both the Hill and Maas families in possible civil lawsuits. “We need to spend a lot more money and a lot more time in this area.”

But cases like those of Hill and Andrews — while harrowing — are rare, numerous mental health experts say. Mary Fleming, CEO of Allegheny Health Choices, a nonprofit that is coordinating planning around Mayview’s closing, said people with mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims of crime and abuse than perpetrators.

“That is particularly true of people coming out of a state hospital who have really been institutionalized,” she said. “They are not very well-adapted to the real world. We hear lots of stories of (former patients) being panhandled very regularly. They just do what people tell them to do, because that’s kind of what they did in the hospital.

“That transition needs to be very slow and very careful,” she added.

Fleming said many communities have responded positively once they understand how much support follows patients coming directly from Mayview.

“In addition to living in a facility that has 24-hour staff, almost all patients are on these multidisciplinary community treatment teams. They’re seen six or seven times a week, sometimes twice a day. There’s a lot of support, a lot of tracking and monitoring.

“It’s not been that difficult,” Fleming said. “The Baldwin situation would be the exception.”

“Next hearing to involve residents’ comments”

The debate continues over whether or not Rolling Hills can be utilized as a long-term mental health facility.  With the closure of Mayview days away, the debate continues, which means that 15 patients currently at Mayview along with staff will be housed temoporarily on mayview grounds until other arrangements can be made for them.  I found this article in the December 25, 2008 posting at “YourSouthhills.com” a link to the original article can be found at the end of the article.

Next hearing to involve residents’ comments

Created Dec 25 2008 – 3:06am

Baldwin Township residents will have their turn to speak regarding plans for a proposed mental health facility to enter their neighborhood at a meeting next month.

At the second of three public hearings, which was held last week, Mercy Behavioral Health officials finished their line of questioning for several witnesses regarding a conditional use application to place a mental health facility into the former Rolling Hills Manor site along Newport Drive.

The facility would include a long-term structured residence and an extended acute care program.

Now that Mercy officials have finished presenting their case, it is time for those opposed to the facility to offer their testimony, township solicitor Thomas McDermott said.

A date has not been set for the third and final public hearing on the proposed facility, but must be scheduled within 45 days of the Dec. 18 meeting. Township commissioners will set the hearing date and time at their next board meeting.

Township commissioners will then have an additional 45 days to render a decision on the conditional use application.

Mercy’s final push last week included testimony from Mary Jeanne Serafin, chief executive officer of Mayview State Hospital, and Larry Bodnar, real estate appraiser.

In front of about 100 residents at the Castle Shannon Fire Hall, Serafin explained to the commissioners the similarities and differences of a long-term structured residence from a state hospital and why there is a need for such a facility.

Mayview State Hospital, she said, is set to close on Monday. Some of the patients and staff from the hospital will move to the Baldwin Township facility, if permission for its opening is granted.

Until then, she said after the meeting, the patients and staff who were scheduled to move to the facility will stay on the grounds of Mayview in a temporary long-term structured residence.

Serafin also explained the differences between regulations for what is required in a long-term structured residence and a nursing home, which is type of facility that Mercy officials placed on the application.

“There are similarities,” she said. “A doctor is a doctor. A doctor in psychiatry has a different specialty than an orthopedic, nevertheless, they’re the same doctor.”

It is the same for a long-term structured residence and a nursing home, she said.

But she agreed with McDermott’s questioning that both facilities are regulated under two, separate guidelines.

“However, when you look at the content of the regulations (there are) many similarities,” she said.

But McDermott questioned if there would be similarities in regulations for all types of facilities, because it is human nature to need certain items like food and shelter.

Bodnar’s testimony addressed some concerns that residents had previously raised that with the new facility, the values of their homes would decline.

“It is my opinion that the proposed location of Mercy Behavioral Health will have no negative effect on single-family dwellings,” he said.

The appraiser, hired by Mercy, showed figures from three facilities that he said had a “stigma” or a “fear of the unknown” regarding a “similar” facility entering into a neighborhood.

Bodnar said the neighborhoods of the facilities that he looked at showed only positive increases in real estate sales following a mental health facility moving into the communities.

But John Arminas, a lawyer hired by several township residents, questioned how the facilities Bodnar compared were similar, when one of them was a “small, residential” house, compared to a facility for 32 people.

Bodnar said he had a reason for choose the sites to compare to the Baldwin Township facility.

“I had certain data that I could work with and this is what I could work with,” he said.

his real estate study.

Bodnar also struggled to answer other questions about the proposed Mercy site or the other sites he compared it to — answering, “I don’t know,” to several questions posed by Arminas and McDermott.

“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

“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.

“State vows Mayview patients will have good care”

This article was originally printed on April 4, 2008 in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and can be seen in it’s original format at … http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/s_560566.html

State vows Mayview patients will have good care
The Pittsburgh area has sufficient facilities and mental health professionals to absorb the 160 people yet to be released from Mayview State Hospital by year’s end, state officials told members of a state Senate committee hearing in Pittsburgh Thursday.Estelle Richman, secretary of the Department of Public Welfare, said all patients discharged by the South Fayette hospital have a detailed case management plan begun months in advance, and teams of professionals to assist in their transition to group homes or other residential settings. She said she expects 65 patients to be discharged by July, with the remainder released by year’s end — although the process is about a month behind schedule, she said.

“No one will be removed from Mayview unless we can ensure their safe transition,” Richman said. “I have no problem going past the deadline if that’s appropriate.”

More worrisome, Richman said, is the fate of other people with mental health concerns living in the community who might not be getting care.

“The people in the state hospital we know by name, we know what they need,” Richman said. “It’s their (counterparts) that will be identified over the next year and a half that we have to make sure we have the capacity to supply housing, medical support, hospital support and community support.”An accidental death of a former Mayview patient and the suicide of another prompted the Department of Public Welfare to briefly halt Mayview discharges in the fall. A review urged enhanced monitoring of patients transferred between counties and improved coordination between jails and mental health caregivers.

Three other patients, who had been released since the August announcement of Mayview’s closure, have died — all of natural causes, said David Jones, a former Mayview CEO who is overseeing the closure for the Department of Public Welfare. Jones said those deaths correspond with the shorter-than-average life spans of the mentally ill documented in a national study.

“People with serious mental illness tend to die 25 years earlier than the general population,” Jones said. “Some are individuals with a number of debilitating medical conditions — morbid obesity, diabetes and chronic pulmonary” ailments.

Bonnie Pfister can be reached at bpfister@tribweb.com or 412-320-7886.

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