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“Forteniters Club in Norristown celebrates 40 years of fellowship”

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This December 28, 2014 The Times Herald article talks about a group that meets every couple of weeks and consists of people who have been in treatment for mental illness.  the group focuses on getting together to have fun, socialize and feel a sense of belonging to a community that is something people with mental illnesses tend to struggle with.  The atmosphere is one of acceptance.

”UPDATE: ‘Bug Oven’ Caused Friday Night Fire at State Hospital”

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

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This article dated October 1, 2011 indicates that a device used to combat bed bug infestation commonly called a ‘bug oven’ was faulty and caused a fire at Norristown State Hospital.  The article was found on the Norristown Patch website and is a followup to an article dated September 30, 2011 on the same site which was the first piece about the fire and can be found here.

“Fate of Norristown State Hospital remains up for debate”

  Interesting article, not that it has to do directly with Mental Health, but it offers some interesting insight into the potential future of Norristown State Hospital.  This article was found in the April 30, 2009 issue of Philly.com local news website and can be found in it’s original format at …http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20090430_Fate_of_Norristown_State_Hospital_remains_up_for_debate.html

Fate of Norristown State Hospital remains up for debate

Across from a neighborhood of bungalows and rowhouses along the Norristown-West Norriton border, Norristown State Hospital stretches for 225 rolling, tree-lined acres, awaiting its third life.

But what might be in store for the 30-building site, which includes a dwindling mental institution, is an ongoing debate.

“Frankly, it’s a large parcel of land that’s completely underutilized and off the tax rolls,” State Rep. Matthew Bradford (D., Montgomery) said. “It’s time to have an honest discussion of what we do going forward.”

The complex, which opened with 392 patients and grew to hold thousands, has the lowest population in its 192-year history, and is scheduled to shrink further. Some of the buildings have been rented to social-service providers and government agencies, while others are vacant and in disrepair.

Two state agencies, the Department of General Services and the Department of Public Welfare, oversee the hospital, but neither has a plan for its future, said Stacey Witalec, a state spokeswoman.

In March, Norristown residents protested and turned back a state-approved bid to bring in its 32d tenant: Vision Quest, an agency that houses at-risk youths.

“When places are looking for a place to house dangerous pedophiles or children waiting to enter into the social-service system, they house them in Norristown,” said Gina Bottone, one of the protestors.

Government outposts and agencies to aid the troubled or drug-addicted rent nearly half the buildings still standing at Norristown State Hospital, while patients occupy just four.

Ten of the buildings, scheduled for demolition, are roped off and vacant. Their boarded-up windows face potholed roads. Most are dilapidated, red-brick Victorian buildings, originally patient lodgings.

Today, their craggy, sagging entranceways and “danger” signs dispel any perception of warmth. Three will be torn down this year, more when the money is budgeted, said Gerald P. Kent, chief executive officer of the hospital.

“We’re trying to get smaller,” he said.

Neighbors, and their political allies, say the decay has made the sprawling site an eyesore.

“I don’t think that over several decades we’ve been very good stewards of the property,” Bradford said.

He and Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery) say they want a direction for Norristown State Hospital beyond the ad-hoc, one-year leases to agencies neighbors regard as a perennial problem.

Officially, nothing has happened.

“We’d like to move toward a more definitive plan,” Vereb said. “What that plan is, I just don’t know. I don’t know anybody that does know.”

Meanwhile, the mental hospital’s population, 380 now, will eventually recede nearly to a patient an acre. That was unthinkable when 4,700 patients overfilled the place in 1954, before psychiatric drugs became widely available and more emphasis was placed on allowing the mentally ill to avoid long-term commitments.

Norristown hoped the dwindling was a one-way street. Thirty years ago, the hospital was down to 1,200 patients, and then-City Manager John Plonski railed about “another influx of criminals” when a new ward for criminally insane juveniles was proposed.

Total closure seems unlikely. For one, the 136-patient forensic unit for criminally committed patients is often near capacity.

“The forensic unit is going to be here for God knows how long,” said Aidan Altenor, the hospital’s former head, who now oversees it and other state hospitals from Harrisburg.

There is, however, a precedent for turning obsolete parts of Norristown State Hospital into an asset for the neighborhoods around it: Neighboring Norristown Farm Park, an immense public park on land where patients once raised crops and livestock.

Observers talk about similar ideas coming out of the hospital’s limbo.

“It would be a beautiful addition if we could get it to developable land,” said Bill Caldwell, who chairs the Norristown Council’s planning and economic development committee. “In a town of 3.5 square miles that was built out probably 100 years ago, you know, that’s a tough thing to find.”

“Proposal meets resistance”

This article found in the Norristown Times Herald on Tuesday, December 9, 2008 can be viewed in it’s original format at the following address ….  http://www.timesherald.com/articles/2008/12/09/news/doc493df64ae12c0409335039.txt 

This seems like yet another article that should be titled, “not in my backyard” I was surprised to see some of the people who were protesting the establishment of a youth crisis facility on Norristown STate Hospital grounds.  I guess it’s ok in the small minds of these folks to have kids in crisis, but the help needs to be in someone else’s backyard.  it’s been my personal experience that facilities of this type are generally locked facilities, and the supervision is very close especially in youth facilities.  So, considering the fact that Vision Quest wants to establish this facility in a building I can only assume was most likely used in the past to house adults with mental illnesses, which would probably generate income for Norristown State Hospital and/or the state of PA.  Doesn’t it seem a little odd that people are ok with adults being housed on state hospital property, but when it comes to kids they are against it?  Suicide is among the leading causes of deaths among teens.  If the people protesting this facility had a teen in crisis would they rather take them to a local facility, or would they prefer their teen be placed on an adult unit  or possibly even need to be transported across the state to the other side of the state where a facility not in your backyard could treat your teen who is in crisis.  This happened to me as a teen I was transported from Northwestern, PA down to Eastern State School and Hospital which was diagnoally on the other side of the state.  I didn’t see my family the entire time I was there, which made it very challenging for me, not to mention I was shell shocked because I lived in a rural community and was placed on a unit with kids from inner city Philly.  I would MUCH rather see facilities for youth being implimented at least on a regional basis across the state rather then see a kid have to be placed hundreds of miles from home at a time when they need their family’s support.

At any rate, this article kind of boilded my blood a bit you can check out the article for yourself below.

Proposal meets resistance


Tuesday, December 9, 2008 2:15 AM EST

Times Herald Staff

NORRISTOWN — A proposal to use Building 12 at Norristown State Hospital for 12-to-18-year-old youth needing “emergency or crisis diagnostic services” has run into major opposition from West End neighbors, municipal officials and at least one state representative.

This fall, Vision Quest of Downingtown, Chester County, and Tucson, Ariz., asked the state Department of General Services and Norristown officials for permission to use the multi-story, C-shaped, residential building for a “custodial healthcare facility” to “temporarily house youth ages 12 to 18 who are in need of emergency or crisis diagnostic services,” according to a Nov. 13 zoning application from Vision Quest for a “use variance.”

 In fact, Vision Quest filled out the zoning application as a legal courtesy to Norristown officials because attorney Paul Padien, representing Vision Quest, alleged the temporary youth housing and treatment center was exempt from Norristown’s approval process because the former mental hospital is a state facility.

In the application, Vision Quest officials said, “Youth who receive these emergency services typically have a length of stay from one to 30 days while their behavior can be stabilized and a plan for their physical, medical, psychological/psychiatric or educational disabilities can be addressed under 24-hour-a-day supervision.”

A seven-year resident of Noble Street summarized the neighbors’ opposition on Monday afternoon: “It is a Philadelphia problem and not a Norristown problem.”

“It’s bad news for Norristown,” said Gina Bottone. “It’s a black mark on the better reputation that Norristown is trying to build for itself. I don’t think Norristown should have to babysit Philadelphia’s problem children.”

Vision Quest officials and an attorney did not respond Monday to requests for comment on the proposal.

An emergency hearing on Norristown’s request for an injunction against the proposed youth housing and treatment, will be held at 1:30 p.m., Dec. 15, before a judge of Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. The hearing will be held at the Irvis Office Building, Courtroom 1.

The judge to hear oral arguments will be identified on Dec. 15 to avoid “judge shopping” by competing attorneys, courthouse personnel said.

Norristown Solicitor Todd Eisenberg said Vision Quest officials had said the proposal was for “over 100 youth.”

Edward Myslewicz, the press secretary for the state Dept. of General Services, declined comment Monday, saying, “since the matter is pending litigation we cannot get into any details.”

Myslewicz refused to discuss general details of the relationship between the department and Vision Quest and any other programs the department and Vision Quest might be involved with.

In a Nov. 26 letter to Norristown Zoning Officer Jayne Musonye, the director of the Bureau of Real Estate for the state General Services department had asserted the department’s right to use the building.

“The intended use is clearly a permitted use and also a necessary function that is critical to the delivery of services required by the (state Department of Public Welfare) DPW,” said Joanne Phillips, the real estate director. “The Department of General Services is advising Vision Quest that they have fully complied with their lease agreement with the Commonwealth and we are authorizing Vision Quest to initiate occupancy of Building 12 at Norristown State Hospital.”

That state letter prompted Norristown to seek the injunction, Eisenberg said.

State Rep. Mike Vereb, R- Dist. 150, said his opposition to the proposal started with “the lack of notification to the community.”

 “It just happened upon us. There was no notification and no information on how it will impact the (Norristown and West Norriton) communities.”

Vereb said he had requested a copy of the contract between the DGS and Vision Quest.

“They are taking a building and renovating it,” Vereb said. “I don’t think the state should be exempt from inspections just because it is the state.”

Vereb said state officials should be embarrassed that “this was done without the proper approvals. If anything happens on that property, Norristown will provide police, fire and official responses.”

Vereb concluded, “Communications on this was, at best, horrible.”

 Carl Rotenberg can be reached at crotenberg@timesherald.com or 610-272-2500, ext. 350.

“Cloud of uncertainty hanging over WSH lifted”

This article reverberates the latest update regarding Forensics in Pennsylvania not being privatized.  It is from the Warren Times-Observer, originally printed on March 22, 2008.  It also mentions some possible uses for what use to be doctors’ houses on Warren State’s grounds that were brought up at some point during the extensive discussions surrounding Warren State Hospital.

Cloud of uncertainty hanging over WSH lifted

By CHUCK HAYES chayes@timesobserver.com

The cloud of uncertainty which has hovered over the forensics unit at Warren State Hospital for the past year has been lifted. “It won’t be closed and it won’t be privatized,” State Rep. Kathy Rapp said on Friday.

Rapp said that she was notified of the decision on Thursday evening by the state Department of Public Welfare.

Rapp said the decision was made by Pennsylvania Welfare Secretary Estelle Richman in conjunction with the Rendell administration.

The forensics unit employs 50 people and Rapp said the transfer or elimination of those jobs would have had “a domino effect” on the local economy.

“It would have had a huge impact on the economy here.” said Rapp. “We needed to retain those jobs. I’m very pleased.”

The privatization or possible closure of the forensics unit had been rumored since last April and state officials confirmed in August that privatization of forensic units at Warren and Norristown state hospitals was being considered.

Rapp arranged to have a legislative policy committee hold a public hearing on the issue in Warren and said on Friday she felt the comments offered at that hearing “put pressure on the Department of Public Welfare” to reconsider.

The closing of the unit, said Rapp, could also have placed “a huge burden” on the Warren County Jail and local legal system.

In the event the unit had been closed, Rapp had prepared a bill designed to assure that adequate state funding would be provided for forensic unit patients no longer housed at Warren State Hospital.

In addition to the public efforts to not privatize or close the forensics units in Norristown or Warren, Rapp said there were also behind-the-scenes negotiations involving the state and state correctional officers union.

The Department of Public Welfare said on Friday that after meeting with union leaders, Richman was withdrawing the proposal to consolidate and privatize forensic units.

Under the terms of the agreement between the state and union, the forensic units at Warren and Norristown will remain, while services at Mayview State Hospital will be transferred to Torrance State Hospital after Mayview closes in December.

Warren State Hospital’s forensics unit serves 32 counties and Rapp said that the closing of the unit would have increased the travel burden for many patients’ families.

During her talks with Richman, Rapp said, there was also discussion of using the empty residences on the hospital grounds, formerly used by doctors, as transitional homes for patients.

The welfare secretary is following up on the possibility of using the residences, Rapp said. “Our prisons are filling up with people with mental illness and drug and alcohol problems,” said Rapp. “If we can utilize those houses, that’s great.”

Section: News Date Posted: 3/22/2008

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