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Rep. Kathy Rapp Responds

I had sent an email to Rep. Kathy Rapp in regards to the statement that seemed to imply that the majority of folks in State Hospitals were sex offenders.  Below is her response to my email which I received on September 17, 2008 and have her permission to share it with others who shared my concerns.  I have copy/pasted it into this post exactly as she wrote it, but I name in the greeting of the email for privacy reasons.

I apolagize if the comments upset you.  My intention was not in any to offend anyone with a mental illness.  My goal is to keep the forensic units open and especially ours in Warren.  I never meant to imply that everyone is a sex offender.  I hope that if you know my background in advocating for the rights of people with disabilities, that your interpetation is not what I believe.

 

Kathy

 

Also, here is a link to the original post I did on this issue … https://pamhi.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/call-to-action/

Rep. Kathy Rapp authors legislation “imposing moratorium on all future state hospital closures”

I received Rep. Kathy Rapp’s fall 2008 newsletter in themal toda and discovered tha while sh was boasting about stopping the privitization of forensics at Warren State Hospital.  The article continued and indicated she had authored hb1455 calling for a study to determine the approximate number of inmates who are mentally ill.  She also is ctinuing her quest to put amoratorium on the closure of state hospitals until this study can be cmpleted.

Here’s a link to the full electronic version of her Fall 2008 newslette so you can ead the full text yourself. 

https://share.acrobat.com/adc/document.do?docid=0aa61039-6d5c-4761-9cf0-17a243a9253c

The link is a nightmare, but I made it so it was easy to find and faster to download or preview online if you prefer.  I posted it uing a free service at http://www.acrobat.com  you can create and share pf files for free.

“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

“Rapp mental health bill still pending in legislature”

This also appeared in the November 27, 2007 issue of the Warren Times Observer it talks about a bill State Representative Kathy Rapp and 70 other co-sponsors have presented asking for a study to determine how widespread serious mental illness is in the correctional system, and also asking that while the studfy is done, a hold be place on the closure of state hospitals,  and privatizing of forensics facilities.

Rapp mental health bill still pending in legislature

By EMILY WHITAKER

11/27/2007 – Staff Writer

In September, State Rep. Kathy Rapp introduced legislation aimed at studying and improving mental health care for inmates in county and state prisons.

The bill, HB 1455, called for a moratorium on the closing of state hospital and forensics units, along with a study of how widespread serious mental illness and substance abuse are in state and county prisons across Pennsylvania.

With more than 70 co-sponsors, the bill was referred by Rapp to the Health and Human Services Committee of the House of Representatives on Sept. 26. It was scheduled for consideration on Oct. 23.

In the week prior to consideration, the bill was put on hold by Gov. Ed Rendell’s office because of its request for a moratorium on the closing of state hospital and forensic units.

After meeting with representatives from the governor’s office and the Department of Public Welfare, Rapp said it was clear, in the weeks that followed the hold, that the bill would not be signed as it was presented.

Rapp said she would continue to push the study of mental illness in county and state prisons, along with the cost of treatment, as a resolution.

If a resolution is passed, it will require the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to compile and study the number of county and state prison inmates who suffer from serious mental illness, mental retardation and substance abuse. The study will also include the number of prison inmates who receive mental health treatment prior to being placed in prison.

In October, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare announced that Allegheny County’s Mayview State Hospital will close in December 2008. In addition, forensics units at Warren and Norristown state hospitals may be privatized.

Warren State Hospital’s forensics unit currently employs 50 people. It serves almost half of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

[Letter To The Editor] “Forensics Center” [Warren Times Observer]

This letter to the editor was printed in the Warren Times Observer on November 27, 2007.  It raises some concerns I’ve seen elsewhere but I thought it might be worth posting this since it offers a local opinion from someone living in Warren County which will feel the brunt of the impact if the Forensics facility at Warren State is closed.  One thing I have been concerned about is the loss of jobs in the area.  I’m not sure how many people are employed in the Forensics facility at Warren State, but I know that if we lose our forensics unit, it will mean a loss of employment opportunities for the area.  Other then that, the other concerns I’ve had are covered by this person’s letter to the editor.

Forensics center

11/27/2007 – Dear Editor, So I try to follow the local news and an issue has arisen that I wish to discuss. Those of you may know a couple concerns have been brought amongst the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania about the forensics center at the Warren State Hospital. I believe strongly that the forensics center is of great help to our, as well as the surrounding, communities.

For those of you who don’t know what the forensics center does, it is a home to those of mental illnesses who may or may not be violent to themselves or others. Furthermore, these patients happen to be criminals of various sorts. The forensics center has many very well educated and experienced staff to that of mental illness. Their job is to counsel, treat and protect their patients.

The issue is this…The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would like to try and save some money by either privatizing the forensics center at Warren State Hospital or possibly close down in which patients will be sent elsewhere. The Commonwealth will save money by hiring a somewhat less educated and experienced team of staff.

The real problems are these…1) to consolidate, the forensics center in Mayview will be closing down in December ‘08 in which the patients residing there will be sent to Torrence State Hospital. 2) Pennsylvania has a good record of no escapes in the system as of yet. The problem here is with a staff of less educated and experienced staff, will that change, and will the safety of others be an issue? To the best of my knowledge, the answer is yes!

Here in Warren County Jail reside a number of inmates who suffer from schizophrenia, severe depression, and the like. Even sadder is that although these sheriffs, correctional officers, etc. are educated and trained, they are not used to dealing with those inmates with mental illness and disorders.

All in all, I believe that there are inmates and patients all over who need the extra care and attention to that of a well trained and educated specialist from a forensics center. I would like to stress the fact that in a case like the decision that the Commonwealth will have to make concerning the changes to the forensics center at the Warren State Hospital.It all comes down to the safety and well being of the patients and others. I just think that there are so many other ways that the Commonwealth could save extra money!

Thank you for your time,

Jesse C. J. Wolfgang, Warren

“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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