“Mentally ill on hold without treatment: Norristown State Hospital lacks rooms for defendants deemed incompetent for trial”

Article Link

This July 15, 2016 article by Kaitlyn Foti found on the Mainline Media News website talks about the extremely long waiting list for beds at Torrance State Hospital and Norristown State Hospital Forensic Units.  The article talks about the impact not only to the person who is on the waiting list, but also their family, the flow of inmates through jails, and the financial impact faced by having to hold someone in jail who is on a waiting list for treatment.

“Federal suit says state provides inadequate mental health care”

Article Link

This December 1, 2015 article by Joe Smydo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette talks about a federal lawsuit being filed by the Disability Rights Network against the Pennsylvania Dept. of Human Services citing inadequate mental health care as the reason for the suit.  Warren State Hospital, Torrance State Hospital and Mifflin County Jail are where the 3 people the suit focuses on are located.

“Prison board reviews policies”

http://www.theprogressnews.com/default.asp?read=23872

Below is an excerpt I found in the Friday Sept. 10, 2010 issue of “TheProgress, it doesn’t say a lot, but it does indicate possible changes to how inmates are assessed after the impending closing of the Forensic unit at Warren State Hospital.  the full artical can be viewed at the link included at the beginning of this bllog entry.

The board learned that the Regional Forensic Psychiatric Centers at Warren State Hospital and Torrance State Hospital will consolidate. According to Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr., this could mean that a team from the hospital would come to Clearfield County to evaluate inmates rather than having them transported.

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“Forensic Fight”

http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/535142.html?nav=5006

This article found in the Warren Times-Observer on September 6, 2010 indicates that while time seems to be running out, the fight to keep the forensic unit at Warren State open is being waged with tenacity.  While the Union Leader fights to keep the unit open, he is also working to ensure that if their efforts fail in keeping the unit open, as many of the27 forensic security employees will be able to acquire other positio.  It sounds to me like the stance is that he is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.  Petitions have been available for signing all over the Warren area I can only hope their efforts aren’t in vein.

Union leader in tough spot

By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com

POSTED: September 6, 2010

Article Photos

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Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Forensic unit petition
A man signed a petition Friday to keep the Warren State Hospital forensic unit open at the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA) canopy in front of the Sill House in Warren. PSCOA members have collected more than 1,500 signatures and plan to set up the canopy in Sugar Grove and Youngsville during the coming week.

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The president of Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association Local SI Warren is in a tough spot.

On one hand, Ed Rollinger is doing whatever he can to prevent the closure of the Warren State Hospital Forensic Unit and the loss of about 30 family-sustaining jobs held by his fellow union members.

On the other, he is trying to work with the state agency that announced the closure to help find new jobs for those forensic security employees.

“I can’t just say it’s not going to happen,” Rollinger said. “If it did my members would be left out in the cold.”

The Department of Public Welfare announced the closure in early August saying the unit was scheduled to be fully out of service by the end of October. The forensic unit at Torrance State Hospital has been expanded to allow Warren’s patients to be treated there.

Department officials assured employees that they would provide assistance in finding job placement for those losing their jobs.

“I’ve been trying to work on some agreement that will help my members,” Rollinger said.

In late August, he received information from DPW.

Although the department came through with some of the promised help, it was not what he and the other union members had hoped.

“Right now the only definite they’re offering is three positions for my job classification at Torrance,” Rollinger said.

The forensic unit operation at Torrance has been expanded to include Warren’s patients to its existing population of 64.

According to State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65th), in the past six months, a total of 28 people have been hired at Torrance in spite of a state hiring freeze.

According to union members, those 28 are all forensic security employees (FSEs) and all were hired before the announcement to close Warren’s unit.

There are 27 FSEs at the Warren State Hospital forensic unit, Rollinger said.

Rollinger said about a third of his union members are willing to move to Westmoreland County for jobs at Torrance.

“I would like to see them take anybody who would like to go,” he said. “I can’t see why they can’t absorb them all. That’s what I’m trying to go for.”

The union members have not been offered placement at the only other state hospital forensic unit in Norristown, Montgomery County, he said.

Other than the three FSE positions offered at Torrance, DPW is offering to hold spaces at Warren State Hospital’s civil operation for the union members.

Those are state jobs and they’re in Warren, but there’s a downside.

“It’d be a drastic pay cut for my members,” Rollinger said. He said members’ pay would go down 20 to 30 percent.

Other positions in state prisons may be available.

“We do have opportunities to place into corrections,” Rollinger said.

DPW can’t force the Department of Corrections to hold openings for the FSEs in Warren.

“They can’t freeze openings for us. It’s still a waiting game,” Rollinger said. “People would be furloughed and then go on unemployment. It’s not a ‘one day you work here, the next day you work there.'”

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“Bottom-Line Decision”

http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/534782.html?showlayout=0

This article appeared in the August 27, 2010 edition of the Warren Times-Observer and gives some more views regarding the closing of the Forensics Unit at Warren State Hospital.

Bottom-Line Decision

Justification to close WSH forensic unit based on potential savings

By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com

POSTED: August 27, 2010
Money is the only justification given in the decision to close the forensic unit at Warren State Hospital.

The state Department of Public Welfare has quoted a savings of approximately $2.3 million per year that will be realized by consolidating the Warren and Torrance state hospital forensic units.

“Due to these tough economic times, the department (of public welfare) has had to make tough decisions on how operations will continue as funding levels fall,” Acting Deputy Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Sherry Snyder wrote in a letter to employees of the Warren forensic unit. “The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has determined that by consolidating the clinical services of the Warren RFPC (Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center) and Torrance RFPC the department can continue to provide quality consumer care while reducing the financial burden of operating two forensic centers.”

In a July 29 letter to the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, Acting Deputy Secretary for Administration Michael Stauffer said the consolidation “will provide the opportunity for financial savings due to efficiencies of scale, decrease in operational costs to maintain the separate unit at Warren RFPC and the consolidation of administrative oversight.”

In the Aug. 2 letter, Snyder said the consolidation is not about the quality of patient care in Warren.

“This closure is in no way a reflection of the quality of consumer care provided at the Warren RFPC,” Snyder wrote. “On the contrary, the hospital’s full accreditation is evidence of the high quality of care and treatment afforded forensic consumers by all of you.”

So, it’s all about $2.3 million per year.

In a response to a Right-to-Know request made by the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA), the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare cited some financial data.

“The savings estimates were based on the fiscal year 2008/2009 actual cost report from Warren State Hospital,” according to information provided to PSCOA. “The calculations for the maintenance/physical operations costs from the RFPC (Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center) unit being closed would save $1,074,214.29 and the staff position savings from the consolidation would be $1,205,627.62.”

That’s nothing to sneeze at, but will the state really realize that savings?

State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65th) doesn’t think so. Neither does the local union president representing most of the unit’s employees.

Rapp said the changes will result in a shift of costs. Maintenance of the forensic unit building and the grounds at Warren State Hospital will continue despite the unit being empty, she said. The recently enlarged unit at Torrance State Hospital in Westmoreland County will require more staff and more maintenance.

There are more than 40 employees at the Warren forensic unit.

The $1.2 million in savings from staff consolidation represents a little less than $30,000 in salary and benefits for each position.

“They’re saving this money from the staff positions,” Rapp said. “That’s kind of questionable when they’re hiring more people down at Torrance.”

According to Ed Rollinger, president of PSCOA Local SI Warren, “They’ve hired 28 staff at Torrance in the past six months.” Rapp also quoted that number of new hires at Torrance.

If those 28 new hires were made to accommodate the influx of patients from Warren, they should be counted against anticipated staffing savings.

Taking those 28 from 44 in Warren leaves only 16 positions eliminated. To generate $1.2 million in savings, each of those 16 positions would have to average $75,000 in salary and benefits.

The one-month advance notice of furloughs from the state to the union lists a total of 28 positions that will be lost at Warren’s forensic unit. According to Rollinger, as of Thursday he was not aware of any current forensic security employees at Warren being offered positions at Torrance.

Rollinger said his requests for more detailed financial figures relating to the closure have not been answered.

Even if the state will save $2.3 million, Rapp and Rollinger argue that closing forensic units is a losing proposition.

“This situation is taking place while our corrections facilities are extremely overcrowded and the state is incarcerating 10,531 inmates with a mental health diagnosis,” Rapp said in a letter to Attorney General Tom Corbett. “Add to this situation there are currently 52 people on a waiting list for a forensic bed. This waitlist has caused overcrowding in our county jails.”

Rapp said the 2,130 Pennsylvania inmates incarcerated in out-of-state prisons because of overcrowding are costing the state $48,201,900 each year.

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“WSH Unit Closing”

http://timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/533909.html?nav=5006 

This article found in the Warren Times observer on August 4, 2010 talks a little more about the closing of the Warren State Hospital Forensics unit.  Parts of it are new info, while other parts are quotes from places I blogged about yesterday.

WSH Unit Closing

41 jobs will be lost in county

By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com

POSTED: August 4, 2010
Article Photos

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Photo by Brian Ferry
The Forensic Unit at Warren State Hospital is scheduled to close in October, according to a state Department of Public Welfare spokesman.

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In a move that means the loss of 41 Warren County jobs, the state has decided to close the Warren State Hospital Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center.

The closure was announced to employees on Monday and will be completed by the end of October, according to Department of Public Welfare Press Secretary Michael Race.

Warren State Hospital personnel declined comment on Tuesday and directed questions to Race.

“The Warren Forensic Unit will be closed,” Race said Tuesday. “We are, in fact, consolidating two forensic units. It will result in a cost savings to the commonwealth.”

The unit is the smallest of three in the state. It provides psychiatric treatment and evaluation of people who are “under criminal detention” with the goal of stabilizing disorders and returning them to the criminal justice system. The 25 patients from 14 counties at the medium security facility will move to a similar facility at Torrance State Hospital in Westmoreland County.

“Counties impacted by the consolidation will still have access to forensic services through the forensic center at Torrance,” Race said.

The closure and consolidation will save the state an estimated $2.3 million per year, Race said.

That the forensic unit is closing is not a sign that the entire Warren State Hospital will follow suit. “This should not be seen as some sort of harbinger of any closure of this hospital itself,” Race said. “Warren State Hospital will not be closing and there will be no changes to the civil section of the hospital.”

Race said the department will work with the 41 forensic unit employees providing “assistance for them in finding job placement” within the state hospital system or elsewhere.

In a press release, State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65th) “harshly criticized the governor’s and the Department of Public Welfare’s decision to consolidate and close the facility’s Regional Forensic Psychiatric Unit effective Oct. 31.”

“The governor’s most recent decision to close one of our state’s most cost-efficient and effective forensics units in order to preserve hundreds of millions of dollars in newly borrowed, special interest discretionary funding… is absolutely insane,” Rapp said.

She said the $2.3 million annual estimated savings will not be realized because of the loss of “family-sustaining” jobs, an increase in mental health care costs and the number of prison inmates in Warren County, and the costs to county government and family in taking up the slack in the rehabilitation process.

“Any time a state hospital is shut down or an experienced and skilled forensic unit such as the staff at the Warren State Hospital is consolidated or eliminated, it greatly increases the possibility that our most vulnerable citizens suffering from schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder and drug addiction will wind up unnecessarily incarcerated, unfairly exploited or otherwise victimized in mainstream society,” Rapp said.

Rapp spearheaded the opposition against proposals to privatize the unit three years ago.

<Article originally found in the August 4th, 2010 edition of the Warren Times Observer and could be found on their site on Aug 4, 2010 at the following address … http://timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/533909.html?nav=5006 >

“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
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