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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

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

 

“Homeless in Warren County Out of sight, out of…”

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Warren County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Warren County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Article Link

 

This November 1, 2012 article found on the Warren Times Observer website talks about homelessness in Warren County, PA  the article points out that unlike the homeless in other places, folks in this area tend to be less visible and as such, they are often overlooked by the community who doesn’t see their need and as a result doesn’t reach out to this population.

 

Money Monday – $24 Challenge

The challenge ….

3 days …. 9 Meals …. $24.00

If I only had $24 and had to use that $24 to buy 3 days worth of food (9 meals)

Questions I thought of as I approached this challenge included

  • Could I actually do it?
  • What would I buy?
  • How healthy would my meals be?
  • Would I have leftovers or would I be wondering if I had enough to last the full 3 days?

Here is what I came up with for a menu for the 3 days.

  1. Day 1
    1. Breakfast
      1. A bowl of Oatmeal
      2. 1 cup milk
      3. 1 egg
      4. 1 banana
    2. Lunch
      1. Cheesy Mac-n-Beans
        1. Ingredients needed
          1. 1 box mac-n-cheese
          2. 1 can diced tomatoes
          3. dry beans (cooked)
    3. Dinner
      1. Tuna Sandwich
        1. Ingredients
          1. 2 slices of bread
          2. 1/2 can Tuna
          3. 1/2 T Mayo
          4. 1/2 slice Onion
      2. 1 cup Milk
  • Day 2
    • Breakfast
      • A bowl of oatmeal
      • 1 egg
      • 1 cup milk
      • 1 banana
    • Lunch
      • 1 Tuna Sandwich
        • Ingredients
          • 1/2 can Tuna
          • 2 slices bread
          • 1/2 T mayo
          • 1/2 slice onion
      • 1 cup milk
    • Dinner
      • Boiled Dinner
        • Ingredients
          • Cabbage
          • Onions
          • Potatoes
      • 1 cup milk
  • Day 3
    • Breakfast
      • 1 bowl Oatmeal
      • 1 cup milk
      • 1 banana
    • Lunch
      • 1 egg salad sandwich
        • Ingredients
          • 1 egg
          • 2 slices bread
          • 1 T Mayo
          • Onion
      • Water
      • 1 banana
    • Dinner
      • My choice of either
        • Leftover boiled dinner
        • or Leftover Cheesy mac-n-beans
      • 1 cup milk

As you can see I was able to figure out things that were healthy, but also ended up getting mac-n-cheese which has a questionable degree of healthiness to it.

Here is a list of the items I would need to buy for this menu with prices for items based on the prices at  Warren Shurfine  where I was given permission to take some pictures of items on my list so I could include them, here’s a link to the video I posted on YouTube for the PAMHI $24 Challenge.

  • Shopping list
  • 1 pound bag of dry kidney beans – $2.19
  • 1 box of mac-n-cheese – $0.75
  • 1 small sweet onion – $0.99 per pound
  • 1 small head of cabbage $0.59 per pound
  • I purchased one that day and it cost about $1.29 for a roughly 2 pound head of cabbage that day
  • 1 small box of Oatmeal – $1.49
  • 1 gallon of low-fat Milk – $3.41
  • 1 dozen eggs – $1.19
  • 1 – 5 ounce can of Tuna $1.09
  • 5 pound bag of potatoes – $2.99
  • 3 bananas – $0.69 per pound
  • Total amount I would have spent for items on this list was about $21.00

Special thanks to the folks at Warren Shurfine for giving me permission to take the photos of items found in the slide show  I made to go with this post.

County supports EOC’s Fairweather Lodge program – TimesObserver.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – The Times Observer

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Warren County

Image via Wikipedia

County supports EOC’s Fairweather Lodge program – TimesObserver.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – The Times Observer.

This article found in the Warren Times Observer on August 15, 2011.  It discusses a Fairweather lodge that is in the works in Youngsville, PA, located in Warren County.  A Fairweather lodge as I understand it, is basically a shared living setting, where everyone in the home contributes to a business run by the folks living there.  I also understand that the business is supervised by a third-party to make sure that everything is being done properly.

Here is a link to a page on Wikipedia that explains what a Fairweather Lodge is …. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairweather_Lodge

Deal struck for Forensic Unit workers – TimesObserver.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – The Times Observer

Deal struck for Forensic Unit workers – TimesObserver.com

The above link will take you to an article found in the Warren Times Observer on October 14, 2010.  It indicates that negotiations have resulted in job promises as they become available for those currently employeed at Warren State Hospital’s Forensic Unit which is slated to close at the end of this month.

 

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“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?!”

 
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