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“Forensic closure at WSH on track”


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?!”


“Area autism specialist appointed”

This article was found in the Warren Times-Observer in the April 2, 2009 edition, at … http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/514638.html

It is more of a localized article but I thought it would be a good one to post  for those in the Warren County area.

Area autism specialist appointed

There is a new face of the autism program in Warren and Forest counties.

Penny Thompson was recently appointed program coordinator for the Rural Autism Program covering the two counties.

The program is sponsored by the Dr. Gertrude A. Barber National Institute in Erie, and offers services and resources to children and families for the diagnosis and treatment of autism.

For the past five years, Thompson has been involved with early intervention services for infants and toddlers. She most recently served as coordinator for the Venango County Early Intervention Program and was previously the director of the Easter Seals Society, Venango County Division.

“I’m very familiar about what families need and want and look for and the idea that getting kids early into services, it doesn’t matter what the disability is,” said Thompson.

“This (program) is taking other services and helping a family along,” she added.

An important focus of the program has been getting children the necessary services early.

“We’re picking up kids earlier and we’re finding that the earlier they get the services that they need, the better it is,” explained Thompson.

Teleconferencing and telepsychiatry, which include facilitating child psychiatrists in Erie to conduct live video evaluations, are tools that will hopefully be increased in the future.

“Telepsychiatry is the big and the new thing that’s happening,” said Thompson.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and an informative window display will be set up at Warren Public Library describing the signs and symptoms of autism as well as a video conference with a psychiatrist in Erie that will be telecasted to Warren Area High School.

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects nearly one in 150 children and impacts their learning and social skills. Symptoms include a child avoiding eye contact or uneven physical or verbal skills.

A recently passed insurance act will assist families with the expense of services.

The Autism Insurance Act, which takes effect July 1, requires many private insurers to begin covering the costs of diagnostic assessments for autism and services for those with autism under the age of 21.

“It’s really kind of a good thing because if they have private insurance through their employer, now they’ll be able to access services through that,” said Glynn Chase, director of business development for the Barber Institute.

The act also requires the state Department of Public Welfare to cover the costs for eligible individuals who have no private insurance coverage and establishes minimum license qualifications for professional behavior specialists.

The Rural Autism Program is located at 27 Hospital Dr. on the Warren State Hospital grounds and can be contacted at 726-8440.

“Silent Witnesses” [WSH cemetary rededication]

I found this in todays edition of the Warren Times-Observer, it discusses a rededication ceremony to be held on Sept 26th in memory of folks wo died and were buried in a cemetary on Warren State Hospital grounds.  The original artical in is original format can be found at … http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/506277.html 

Silent Witnesses


Rededication set for WSH cemetery

By CHUCK HAYES chayes@timesobserver.com

There will be 954 silent witnesses.

A rededication ceremony has been scheduled for the 127-year-old Warren State Hospital cemetery which state hospital employees and volunteers have been restoring during the past two years.

The cemetery, with 954 gravesites, is located along the north side of Jackson Run Rd. in North Warren, on a hillside near the state hospital and what is now Lowe’s at the Warren Commons.

The cemetery was overgrown and virtually forgotten until September 2006 when the state hospital established a Cemetery Restoration Committee.

Committee members did a substantial amount of research of state hospital archives to locate and identify each of the gravesites, most of which only had obscured numbered ground-level markers and no names or dates.

Fewer than a dozen of the graves had an appropriate headstone.

Records indicate the first burial at the cemetery took place in 1881. David Kucherawy, CEO at the hospital, said that in addition to the state hospital employees, approximately 50 volunteers from the public and an Eagle Scout were involved in the restoration project.

Kucherawy said that the hospital also worked with the Warren County Jail and probation department to enlist the help of persons fulfilling community service requirements.

Although the volunteers wanted to restore the cemetery to as close to its original appearance as possible, Kucherawy said that no photographs of the original cemetery could be located. The volunteers reconstructed pathways, the entrance to the cemetery and landscaping.

A rededication ceremony, which is open the public, will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 26. Due to limited parking at the cemetery, shuttle service will be available from the Lowe’s parking lot, beginning at 9:45 a.m.

Nameplates are still being engraved, but by the time of the rededication ceremony, said Kucherawy, each of the gravesites will have a headstone with namesplates, which will include the dates of birth and death.

Funding for the headstones and nameplates came from donations from volunteers and the public and the hospital’s operating fund.


“Patient assault reported at Warren State Hospital”

 I found this article at ….

I’m not posting it for any reason other then to offer an example of how we (myself included) as mental health Consumers, need to not only learn to be accountable for our actions, but also to demonstrate what can happen if we choose to do things that are inappropriate.  It use to be that folks with mental illnesses weren’t held accountable and tis sort of thing happened frequently in State Hospitals.  We have reached a time where Consumers are no longer allowed to hide behind their diagnosis as an excuse for behaving in ways that are not acceptable, and society along with the mental health system are expecting us to learn to behave appropriately, and to reach beyond ou diagnosis.  For granted I don’t know any more details about the incident in this article then wha is explained in it.  I hope that folks who might consider this sort of behavior will read the article and see what could happen even if you are in treatment for your mental illness if you were to choose to become violent towards someone else.

Article published Jul 22, 2008

Patient assault reported at Warren State Hospital

WARREN — State police are investigating a report of an assault at a Warren County hospital for the mentally ill.

Police said an adult female patient attacked another adult female patient at Warren State Hospital in Conewango Township on Saturday.

A woman pulled the victim off a couch by her hair, then pushed the victim’s head into a chair, kicked her and punched her in the face numerous times, police said. The victim suffered multiple injuries in the attack.

Police did not release the name of either woman.

Police said charges of aggravated assault, simple assault and harassment are pending.

— Emily Babay

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