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“Vision Quest details architectural plans Building at state hospital would become a youth crisis center”

This article found in the Monday, January 12, 2009 issue of the Norristown Times-Herald and can be viewed below or at the following address http://www.timesherald.com/articles/2009/01/12/news/doc496aca3cee3ac542528279.prt  

 

Vision Quest details architectural plans

Building at state hospital would become a youth crisis center

 

Monday, January 12, 2009 3:14 AM EST

 

By CARL ROTENBERG
Times Herald Staff

NORRISTOWN — The latest use variance request from Vision Quest of Downingtown to use Building 12 at Norristown State Hospital for a youth crisis diagnostic service for 12- to 18-year-olds, details how rooms in the three-story brick building would be used.

The architectural plans by David Black Associates in Chambersburg show a cafeteria, commercial kitchen, laundry facility and storage spaces in the 27,992-square-foot basement.

The first floor includes 14 bedrooms, four solariums, two dayrooms, two classrooms and two computer labs. The largest bedrooms measure 20 by 26 feet and are divided into four smaller areas by room dividers.

The second floor includes 12 bedrooms, four solariums, six administration offices, two dayrooms, two classrooms and one computer lab.

A packet of about 20 color photos submitted with the use variance application details the outside of the red-brick “U”-shaped building.

A 12-foot high cyclone fence, with a four-foot inward, inclined extension on top, closes off the grassy interior courtyard from the rest of the Norristown State Hospital campus.

The “former 24-hour psychiatric facility” would be equipped with “delayed egress locks” at all outside doors to prevent unauthorized entry and exit, the zoning application said. Any opening of the doors would start an “audible signal” (alarm).

Only a loss of electric power, a fire or an electric signal from each dayroom can disable the lock system, the application said.

Vision Quest and the state Department of General Services, which operates state facilities for the state Department of Public Welfare, have jointly applied for the use variance.

The use variance argued the “use is a permitted use pursuant to Section 320-81A(7) of the Norristown zoning ordinance, to the extent relief is deemed to be required.”

“Applicant seeks requested relief and any and all other relief as may be necessary to operate facility,” the application said, for an “institution for the short-term care of minor children in a custodial healthcare facility.”

The state hospital property, located at Sterigere and Stanbridge streets, has limited uses in several buildings for psychiatric care, the criminally insane and homeless services. Many buildings with broken windows and a dilapidated appearance on the grounds are posted with “Danger — No Entrance” signs.

The Norristown Zoning Hearing Board will hold a hearing on Vision Quest’s request for a use variance at 7 p.m., Jan. 27, at the municipal hall.

The Norristown State Hospital Board of Trustees issued a press release Thursday that said it understands and respects the community’s concerns regarding Vision Quest’s zoning application.

The board members said their responsibility is to advise, assist and make recommendations to the CEO of the hospital on management and operations questions.

They also expressed commitment to quality care for those who live at Norristown State Hospital.

State Rep. Mike Vereb, R- Dist. 150, and State Rep. Matthew Bradford, D-Dist. 70, have publicly opposed the Vision Quest proposal along with a majority of Norristown council.

Residents living in the neighborhood around the hospital have also expressed strong opposition.

“It’s bad news for Norristown,” said Norristown resident Gina Bottone in December. “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.”

In a Nov. 26, 2008 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,” wrote 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 letter prompted Norristown officials to get a state court order late last year, which forced Vision Quest to apply for a use variance.

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

“Hearing request postponed”

This article found in the Tuesday, December 16, 2008edition of The Times-Herald in Norristown offers an update as to where things are at with Vision Quest’s proposal to utilize building 12 on Norristown State Hospital grounds to house 100+ male teens who are in need of emergency crisis services.  this particular article seems to indicate that Vision Quest has a green light to move in, but I feel like there is more to the story then what is in the article. 

This article can be found at the following address … http://www.timesherald.com/articles/2008/12/16/news/doc494729b1eeb78123847051.txt 

Hearing request postponed

 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 1:18 AM EST

By CARL ROTENBERG
Times Herald Staff

NORRISTOWN — An emergency court hearing on Norristown’s request for an injunction against a proposal for youth housing and treatment in Building 12 at Norristown State Hospital was postponed Monday afternoon in Harrisburg.

The postponement of the hearing before a Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania judge happened after Norristown officials, Norristown Solicitor Todd Eisenberg and representatives of Vision Quest of Downingtown, Chester County, and Tucson, Ariz., and the state Department of General Services (DGS) apparently agreed Vision Quest would apply for a use variance and a public hearing before the Norristown Zoning Hearing Board, said Municipal Administrator David Forrest.

A proposal to use Building 12 on the hospital grounds 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 two state representatives.

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 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.

A 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, meeting at Hancock Fire Co., 820 W. Airy St., Norristown with Ward 1 and Ward 2 residents will include a discussion of the Vision Quest proposal.

Council President Mila Hayes and Councilman William Caldwell, the representatives of the two wards, will moderate the discussion.  

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

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

“Opposing camps to sound off on Vision Quest youth facility”

 This article found in the Norristown Times-Herald on Monday, December 15, 2008 at the following link http://www.timesherald.com/articles/2008/12/15/news/doc4945e3921308f957055845.txt  Discusses an upcoming hearing about whether or not Vision Quest can open their proposed facility or not.

Opposing camps to sound off

on Vision Quest youth facility

 

Monday, December 15, 2008 2:06 AM EST

By CARL ROTENBERG
Times Herald Staff

NORRISTOWN — Council President Mila Hayes and Councilman William Caldwell will host a combined Ward 1 and 2 community meeting Wednesday evening where residents opposed to a plan to use Building 12 at Norristown State Hospital for more than 100 “troubled” male youths are expected to speak.

The 6:30 p.m. meeting at Hancock Fire Co., 820 W. Airy St., Norristown, will include discussion of the plan by Vision Quest of Downingtown, Chester County, and Tucson, Ariz. to use the multi-story C-shaped 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.”

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., Monday, before a judge of Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.

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

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

 URL: http://www.timesherald.com/articles/2008/12/15/news/doc4945e3921308f957055845.prt

“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

By CARL ROTENBERG
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.

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