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“‘Peer Support’ Local mental health consumers are helping each other”

Link to: WTO06122015C01 (pdf format)

The article on Peer Support available through the above link, appeared in the Warren Times Observer on June 12, 2015. The article talks about a variety of Peer programs found at Beacon Light Behavioral Health in Warren, PA.  I felt the article gave a really good representation of some of the changes being seen in Warren County with regards to mental health treatment.

The pdf file was provided to me by Diane Paddock who wrote the piece for the Warren Times Observer, and shared here with her permission. The Warren Times Observer website is located at http://timesobserver.com

“Warren County Community Mental Health Awareness Video”

Video Link

This May 12, 2015 video by the GlarnerGroup was produced in Warren County, PA and talks about mental illness statistics surrounding it, and explaining why mental health is important and why we need to support those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.  The message in this video is very recovery oriented.

I’m Blogging for World Mental Health Day October 10

I have worked on developing and enhancing my list of items I use as personal medicine.  For those who aren’t familiar with the term “personal medicine” let me explain it a bit.  Pat Deegan describes personal medicine as things we do that make us feel better, and reminds us that medication prescribed by our doctor is not the same as personal medicine.  Medication or pills are something you take.  personal medicine is something you do.

Here’s a list of some of my personal medicine items and how I benefit from doing them.

  • Bicycling
    • Riding my bike helps me manage my anxiety by giving me an outlet for some  of the anxious energy
  • Blogging
    • Blogging helps me feel connected to the world around me and at the same time gives me a sense of purpose
  • Playing video games
    • When I play video games, I am able to take a step back from things that may be overwhelming me, and I get an opportunity to regroup before trying to face whatever is overwhelming me again.  I also use gaming as a way to practice social skill in an environment that is less threatening to me then face to face encounters with other people tend to feel.
  • Knitting
    • Knitting helps me in a few ways
      • gives me a creative outlet
      • helps me quiet my mind by doing something that doesn’t need lots of thinking, and I can sort of meditate a bit
      • allows me to do something nice for other people and when I see people smile when I give them something I have knit, I get a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of warmth that helps take the sting out of the rough patches I may be experiencing in my life.
  • Researching
    • Researching or learning more about whatever I happen to have as a pressing question on my mind, helps to quiet my mind, and satisfy my hunger for information.  I will often have a question or idea on my mind that seems to almost take over my brain and make it tough to think about anything else, and I found that simply taking a little time to do a little research into the question  or idea helps me settle my mind by giving me information to satisfy the thoughts.  It’s kind of like if you have a baby that is hungry who is crying and fussy because of being hungry.  Once you feed the baby and satisfy the baby’s hunger, the baby will generally settle down and be more content overall.  In many ways that’s what my mind is like but instead of being hungry for food,  my brain gets hungry for information, and the questions or ideas are like the fussy baby.  I feed my mind information and the fussiness dissipates.  So while I do realize that most people don’t do research for fun, it is something that I not only enjoy, but am able to use to quiet my often noisy brain.
  • Journalling
    • Journaling helps me sort and organize thoughts, feelings or ideas, and gives me a second option for handling the questions and such that often become overwhelming to me if left unchecked.  If I don’t have time to do research right then, sometimes just the act of writing down the question, topic, idea or whatever it is that seems to be taking over my mind, it allows me to in a sense say ok, I recognize that this is on my mind and needs to be further considered, but I’m going to table it and deal with it later when I have more time.  In short, it’s like I’m emptying my brain a little so I can focus on the thing I need to be focused on at that moment.
  • Walking
    • Walking, like bicycling helps me manage my anxiety, my weight, and helps me kind of clear my mind by getting out and enjoying nature a bit
  • Interacting with my Service Dog
    • Interacting can be playing, training, working, or simply cuddling, but the thing all these forms of interaction do for me, is divert my attention off myself and help keep me from dwelling on things.  I also get to explore the world around me much easier than I could on my own.  The world is a very scary place for me, but using my service dog helps me manage the fears and anxiety I have about the world around me that pretty much paralyzes me if I’m left to handle things on my own without my Service Dog’s help.  I get a sense of joy, accomplishment, and am more likely to interact with people around me then I would on my own.  My service dog bridges the gap between  my world and the world around me in a way that in some ways is almost magical, as well as being very difficult to put into words.  She has the ability to make me laugh or smile at times when no human has been able to succeed, she gives me comfort, bolsters my braveness, and even though she is the one being trained, our training sessions give me a sense of accomplishment and pride when I see her begin to master a skill I’ve tried to teach her.  She’s learning to help me, and I’m learning to reach beyond myself.

All the things I listed above are things that help me in many ways, but they all are able to have a positive impact on my mental health and even my physical health and by doing things that impact both my mental and physical health, I feel more like a complete or whole person who is better equipped to face the world around me and everything it has to offer.

Image I'm Blogging for World Mental Health Day on October 10

I’m Blogging for World Mental Health Day on October 10

 

“Conference tackles mental health issues: Treatment or incarceration”

storeroom

storeroom (Photo credit: suttonhoo)

 

 

Article Link

 

This April 19, 2013 article found on the Warren Times-Observer website talks about a conference recently held at the Interfaith Chapel on the Warren State Hospital grounds.  Based on the article it seems like the conference was for getting mental health providers and corrections related employees into the same room to discus what’s broken and what can be done to fix it in regards to the situation where corrections facilities are holding more and more inmates with mental health issues. Many questions were raised in the article.

 

While I’m encouraged to see these folks sitting down and talking to each other, I am concerned that there is one group that may have been overlooked.  The group I have in mind is the people who will be effected by any decisions made by the professionals who attended this meeting.  That group being the folks who receive services from these agencies.  I know Beacon Light has a Consumer Advisory board, so I suspect there is a chance that Beacon Light will at some point be including the folks they serve, but what about the other agencies represented, will they too include representative of the people they serve?

 

 

 

“Program keys on tobacco, pot”

Article Link

This February 13, 2013 article on the Warren Times Observer website talks about a program being presented by Beacon Light Behavioral Health to students and the general public at Sheffield High School.  The article points out that while man think pot is safer then cigarettes, there is data indicating that the THC level is much higher in pot today then it was 20-30 years ago.

“Help For Homeless”

Article Link

This article appearing on October 12, 2012 on the TimesObserver.com website discusses efforts being made by Warren E.O.C. to receive a grant that would enable them to help homeless people in the area find long-term housing.

 

“Forensic closure at WSH on track”

http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/534494.html?nav=5006 

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?!”

 

“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.

 

See how Warren County has voted in the PA primary

  This isn’t really a mental health related post, but I thought that it might be interesting to someone somewhere to find out how Warren County is voting in the primary.

http://votewarren.org

One person I’m personally interested in watching with regards to the 65th district, is the race between Rapp and Gern for state house representative.  Bothe are Republicans, but I’m hoping that Kathy Rapp wins re-election because she’s very passionate about improving the mental health system Gern has been spending most of their campaign trying to discount Rapp, and basically slinging mud, so I don’t know much about what Gern really stands for.  Kathy on the other hand has been very public about things she’s been working on and also things she has accomplished while she has been in office, which include support for Millitary Vets, the elderly, disabled, and also has spearheaded a push to try and get a morotorium done on mental illness among inmates.  She’s very family oriented, and from what I’ve seen seems to advocate for the underdog.

  My interest in Kathy Rapp is one reason I posted this, but I’m sure everyone has their own views on things, which is cool.

Fluke? or the beginning of a new trend

  I witnessed something that impressed me more then you can imagine.  our local Community Support Program (CSP) has been floundering at best for as long as I can remember with meetings in the past discussing what activities should be held for Consumers at the drop-in center, and other misc. topics that really didn’t pertain to what CSP is about.

  What I saw and was part of this past week was an awesome sight for me to see, our local CSP was discussing issues that could have a potential impact on our community as a whole, and the Consumers especially.  among the topics, there was discussion about the upcoming Service Area Planning Meeting, and Consumers were encouraged to come and voice concerns either themselves, or to give their concerns to a spokesperson who would voice them for them, whether Consumers choose to speak or not while they are there was optional, and everyone was encouraged to at the very least show up so that folks at the state level could see there was interest and concern about the future of Warren State Hospital. 

  Another topic we touched on included the petition I’ve been circulating for HB 1448 which is sponsored and first presented by Representative Dan Frankel, and if passed into law would create a non-lapsing trust fund that would be used for Community mental Health Services. The money for the fund would come from any money gained from the sale or lease of land currently used by state MH-MR facilities.  NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania has a PDF file of a downloadable petition that can be printed and then sent to the person listed on the bottom of the second page of the petition. their site is located at …. http://www.namiswpa.org/ 

Also discussed was the letter writing campaign being championed by Rachel Freund of PMHCA, here’s an excerpt from the WRCSP December 2007 minutes where I first learned about this.

“PMHCA continues to work with our partners on the campaign to raise the monthly $60 personal spending allowance for people in personal care homes. Already nearly 400 letters have been sent to the Secretary of Welfare and her deputy secretaries, as well as PA Senators and House Members. We can help you host a letter writing event at your center – join your voices with our efforts so we can help the 8800 people struggling to live on $60 per month!  For more information on any of these points contact Rachel Freund at 412-621-4706 or rfreund@verizon.net

The WRCSP minutes were found at this address …. http://www.pmhca.org/?page=csp&region=western

  So what does this all mean?  It means that for the first time in my experience with the local CSP in my county, we had a VERY productive meeting that talked about real issues that could effect not only us as individuals, but also our community that we live in.  Was this a fluke?  I don’t know, but what I do know is that I’m hoping that future meetings are as productive and stimulating as this one was.  I saw people who normally don’t get involved in discussions, asking questions and offering their views instead of sitting their being told what to think they were forming their own opinions and ideas about things.  The person running the meeting was encouraging Consumers to speak up and be heard, which is something that I’ve heard other counties doing, but until now, never really saw it in action in my own, with the exception of rare individuals who tried to encourage Consumers and for whatever reason were squelched in the past.  If what I saw this past week continues, it could mean a new day in Warren County, but I find myself asking, ‘Is the county ready to hear what we have to say? or is it just false hopes?” Time will tell, but I hope it continues because I saw more life in that CSP meeting then I had seen in other local CSP meetings I had attended and life is a wonderful thing to see developing and growing.

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