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“Pennsylvania drops bid to privatize forensic mental-health services Cost-saving deal reached with unions”

This article is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found in the March 21, 2008 Issue, it talks about a deal that has been reached to cut costs, but also prevent Forensics facilities in Pennsylvania from being privatized.  The articale can be read below or viewed at the following address…. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08081/866822-85.stm

Pennsylvania drops bid to privatize forensic mental-health services  Cost-saving deal reached with unions
Friday, March 21, 2008

After reaching a cost-saving agreement with union leaders, the state plans to end its efforts to privatize and consolidate forensic services in state hospitals serving people with mental illnesses.

In a statement prepared for release today, state Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle Richman said the agreement maintains quality care and continued employment for forensic center staff while providing savings to Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Forensic units provide evaluation and treatment for people in the criminal justice system.

The agreement calls for no layoffs, though officials plan to save about $1.5 million the first year by cutting positions through attrition and making salary changes for new hires, said department spokeswoman Stacey Witalec. Savings should increase in later years, she said.

Representatives of union groups praised the agreement while acknowledging that it involves concessions.

“Our members felt this was a major win,” said Mike Morrill, state unit coordinator for Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania, which represents nurses in forensic units.

“This agreement saves tax dollars without compromising public safety,” said David La Torre, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, which had been highly critical of the privatization effort.

Other unions that worked to reach the agreement with the state included Pennsylvania Social Services Union Local 668 and the Office and Professional Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania.

The state disclosed the privatization effort last August as part of an announcement that Mayview State Hospital would close by the end of this year.

The agreement to be announced today still means the termination of forensic and other mental health services at Mayview.

Currently, the state provides forensic services at Mayview, Norristown and Warren state hospitals. The state had explored creating privately run forensic facilities at two sites, the Norristown and Torrance hospitals.

Under the new agreement, state-operated forensic services at the Warren and Norristown hospitals will continue. Once Mayview closes, forensic services there will be transferred to Torrance State Hospital.

Joe Fahy can be reached at jfahy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1722.
First published on March 21, 2008 at 12:00 am

“Don’t Privatize Mental Health Care For Inmates”

This article was found in the October 17, 2007 issue of “The Tribune-Democrat” I’m not positive, but I believe this may be a paper out of Johnstown, PA, but I can’t say fro sure since the site didn’t readily reveal the location of the paper.  If I’m wrong, please let me know so that I can correct the location if it is wrong.  The articl focuses on the PSCOA’s views regarding the Privatizing of Forensic treatment Facilities

Don’t privatize mental health care for inmates

BY DONALD G. MCNANY

The Rendell administration’s intention to privatize the care, custody and control of mentally ill criminals is more than just bad public policy – it puts public safety at risk.

The state Department of Public Welfare has formally requested bids from private companies to take over the entire operation of Pennsylvania’s three secure, segregated units for these dangerous criminals. One of these units is housed at Mayview State Hospital in Allegheny County. 

According to the DPW plan, Mayview would be closed by the end of 2008, and these inmates would be transferred to Torrance State Hospital in Westmoreland County.

The stated objective in the DPW proposal can only be read one way: Do it cheaper by getting them out on the streets faster.

Beyond the stunning naiveté behind this severely flawed proposal, and even greater than the job security of some of our state’s most highly trained and dedicated civil servants, is the fundamental responsibility of government to protect its citizens.

Handing over this public trust to a for-profit company in the name of cost-cutting is an unnecessary and dangerous gamble.

Trying to pinch a few dollars when it comes to sexually deviant and violent criminals who have persistent and severe mental illnesses is outrageous and irresponsible.

One has to question why such a move is even being considered, and why the Rendell administration would spend so much time and resource to pursue such a wrongheaded course.

(Incidentally, this comes at a time when the administration is also intent on implementing a new policy that would allow for early release of thousands of so-called “nonviolent offenders.”)

It seems somebody is being led down the primrose path with that old and tired promise of “more for less.”

According to the DPW, privatization will cut costs by 20 percent while – at the same time – enhance services. These so-called enhancements would include an acceleration of the processing, evaluation and potential release of these inmates.

Tragically, the recidivism rate for these types of criminals is high. How many dollars saved can justify the repeat offense of a rapist or a pedophile?

Does the Rendell administration really want to take responsibility for such a policy?

The Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association believes that the elimination of more than 200 “forensic” jobs held by PSCOA members is the opening move in an attempt to privatize the entire state corrections system.

This should concern all Pennsylvanians because privatization and our corrections system are a dangerous mix.

For-profit companies are just that – for profit. Pressure to produce a fat bottom line has no place in our state prison system. It would inevitably lead to less secure state hospitals and prisons because what ultimately drives the decision-making is profit – not security.

The group of PSCOA members who have been successfully providing this essential security are called Forensic Security Employees.

FSEs train extensively across several disciplines, including security and psychiatry. It is extremely dangerous work and the risk and incidence of serious injury are high. FSEs have suffered severe and career-ending injuries in the line of duty.

It takes time, dedication, specialized skills and decades of institutional knowledge and experience for these men and women to perform their jobs successfully.

The public knows little about FSEs and the three secure units inside our state hospitals because their record has been exemplary: There has never been a successful escape from any of these facilities since the creation of FSEs decades ago.

It is extremely disturbing to put these critical services on the auction block for the lowest bidder. No for-profit company can hope to duplicate the years of experience and knowledge FSEs bring to the job. The citizens of Pennsylvania should not be forced to accept a trial-and-error approach when it comes to the control and custody of mentally ill criminals.

If we’ve learned anything in recent years it’s that you don’t gamble with public safety, and you certainly don’t try to do it on the cheap.

PSCOA firmly believes this privatization effort by the Rendell administration should be stopped in its tracks.

It is unwarranted, dangerous, and it would ultimately pose a threat to the safety of our communities across the state.

Donald G. McNany is president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association.

Pennsylvania State Corections Officers Association Website

  I stubled across this site, and thought I would include it here, because it offers a different perspective then what I’ve seen from the DPW on the privatizing of Forensics in Pennsylvania.  It also includes a nice list of links to articles, and might be worth keeping an eye on since they seem to be adding article links regularly (at least that’s what it appears to be)

So, here’s the link to the PSCOA website ……

http://www.pscoa.org/dpw/

I’ll also be including the link on the page entitled “State Hospital Closures and Privatiztion Links” to make it easier for folks to find in the future.

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