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Is Warren State next on the chopping block?

I came across an article this morning that mentions  the “pending closure” of WSH being a major issue for Crawford County.  I am digging for other references to this, but haven’t found anything yet to confirm this, but I thought it was worth mentioning here since it was rumors like this that preceded the closure of both Allentown State Hospital and Mayview State Hospital

I have included the excerpt below from the Meadville Tribune dated May 31, 2011

http://meadvilletribune.com/local/x564434592/Weindorf-takes-over-as-Human-Services-boss

May 31, 2011

Weindorf takes over as Human Services boss

By Jane Smith Meadville Tribune

“Another major issue facing Crawford County is the pending closure of Warren State Hospital, where clients with severe mental illness reside for treatment. Crawford County has 10 clients in that hospital. Once the hospital is closed, the county is responsible for finding suitable housing. Weindorf said some can be transferred to another state hospital, but many are expected to return to Crawford County.”

Forensic Unit now officially closed – TimesObserver.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – The Times Observer

Forensic Unit now officially closed – TimesObserver.com

The link above will take you to an article found in the Saturday, October 30, 2010 edition of the Warren Times-Observer.

It indicates that the closing of the Warren State Hospital Forensic Unit is completed the last client left on Thursday and the remaining unit staff left on Friday.

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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“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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“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?!”

 

WSH Forensic Unit: A Letter to the editor

I thought this was a well thought out letter found in the August 14, 2010 edition of the Warren Times Observer.

WSH forensic unit
POSTED: August 14, 2010 Email: “WSH forensic unit”

Dear editor:

I am a past/retired employee of Warren State Hospital. I am also “one”of many employees that were injured by the hands of a patient.

Without getting into details of my incident, know that the patient that injured me was a female and because we had no female forensic unit she ended up at Torrence State Hospital.

I guess what I’m saying now and then is why didn’t Warren State Hospital open up the other half of the forensic unit for the female population in this area.

I have been in the forensic unit numerous times and know that it is possible to do such. I also know (read the police blotter) that I am not the only employee to get hurt by a female.

The Warren County Jail is not equipped to take care of these “girls/ladies.” Warren State Hospital could be. Fight for our hospital and the jobs that are being lost.

These are good, dedicated employees that don’t deserve to lose their jobs. transfer to a different job (Torrence), maybe, or stand in an unemployment line a bigger maybe yet.

Thank you,

Lucy Rudolph

P.S. My thoughts on will they close Warren State Hospital entirely. If they can undermine the forensic unit, they can undermine the hospital also. Better start looking now.

“Board surprised at WSH decision”

http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/533958.html?nav=5006

The following article was found in the August 5, 2010 edition of the Warren Times Observer, found on their site at the above address as of the time of this post. 

The article offers a public response from the Warren State Hospital Board members who it sems were unaware of the decision to close the WSH Forensic until after the decision had been made.  They appear to be upset by the way this was handled, and to be honest I don’t blame them.

Board surprised at WSH decision

By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com

POSTED: August 5, 2010
When the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare made the decision to close the Forensic Unit at Warren State Hospital, it did so without input from the hospital’s advisory board.

Warren State Hospital Advisory Board of Trustees President Dr. Ray Feroz, a professor of special education and rehabilitative services at Clarion University, said the announcement came as a surprise to board members.

“The advisory board was surprised by this announcement as were others,” Feroz said on Wednesday. “We are dismayed and even angered that our input wasn’t sought in this decision.”

“Warren’s been there for a hundred years and to have this office of mental health in a winding down administration come in and make this decision is just dismaying and it’s no way to do business,” he said. “The full board is dismayed that this decision was made in this manner without more local input and regional input.”

“Our sole role is to be the eyes and ears of the members of the community and be in a consultative role to the management of the institution,” he said, adding that they were not consulted.

The nine-member board does not have a great deal of power, but the members plan to do what they can to see if there is a chance the unit can remain open in Warren.

“Some people say it’s a done deal,” Feroz said. “I haven’t given up hope.”

“We will lodge our concerns” with the department and policy-makers, Feroz said. “We’re doing what we can.”

“All we can do is talk to our legislators and talk to the governor’s office and make sure they’re aware of our feelings on this,” he said.

He said it is possible that closing the unit truly makes economic sense as indicated by the department and Press Secretary Michael Race.

However, he would like to know for certain.

“We would have loved to see their data,” Feroz said.

Even if the state will realize a cost savings by closing the Warren facility and moving patients to Torrance State Hospital’s Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center, money should not be the only issue, he said.

Transporting patients from “the huge swath of counties” served by Warren State Hospital to Westmoreland County will cost the counties, Feroz said.

Not transporting patients who need the services of a forensic unit will cost even more. Counties will be “on the hook” for expensive medications for prisoners, Feroz said.

“There have to be other considerations in the decision to close a unit like this,” he said. “This decision needs to be made on more than just dollars.”

“All of the reports that we have seen have been that we run an excellent program at Warren State Hospital,” Feroz said. “I don’t know how that compares to Torrance. I’d like to see a side-by-side comparison… just to understand which is the better unit.”

According to Race, Warren’s Forensic Unit was the smallest of three in the state with 25 patients.

Torrance had 64 men in residence as of Tuesday with the capacity for 75. Race said the facility would be modified to accommodate 100.

If the money and quality of care both favor Torrance, “We probably would have supported the idea” of consolidation, Feroz said. “From a quality point of view and a cost point of view we were given no information to support that.”

“We weren’t at all included in any of this decision,” he said.

Feroz said the lack of transparency in the decision is a problem for himself and the board.

He even questions Race’s statement that the closure of the forensic unit should not be seen as a harbinger of closure for the rest of the facility.

“If this is the way they do business, what are they going to do next?” he asked.

“There are roughly 440 employees overall on board right now,” Feroz said. “This will take out 40 or 41 employees.”

“Who’s to say… that isn’t going to happen next year” to the remaining 400, he said. “These are good-paying jobs.”

Race said some forensic unit employees may find other employment within the state hospital system. Even if they do, the 41 jobs are lost to the Warren County economy, Feroz said.

A visit to the past …..

A little while back, July 5th of this year to be precise, my Mom and I did something a little out of the ordinary, while most folks were visiting family, having picnics, camping or any number of other typical summer activities, my Mom and I decided to go visit the cemetary at Warren State Hospital.  I took my camera, but as I walked around I couldn’t bring myself to take pictures, I can’t explain why I couldn’t bring myself to take pictures, I just couldn’t.  It was a very sobering experience, in that as I walked around, reading names of people buried there, and seeing the dates tht were on some of the headstones, I felt like the research I was doing about Warren State Hospital was about more then just events on a timeline, but that for the first time it became real to me that the place I was researching was about more then buildings and supervisors, it was about the patients who lived and in some cases died there.  Learning about how things have changed in how folks who are placed at Warren State Hospital are or have been treated.  I was choked up at times because having been a patient at Warren State myself years ago, I felt oddly connected to the people buried in the cemetary, like I somehow knew at least a little bit of what their life was like there, though at the same time I knew that my time there was spent very differently from how their time was probably spent.

Warren State Hospital like many state hospitals built around the same time was a self-suficient farming community.  They grew crops, tended to livestock, had a prize winning herd of dairy cattle at one time even.  Early on it was more unusual for a patient not to have some kind of job to help with the day to day functioning of the hospital then it was for a patient to be working.  Things change though and people saw that patients had become a source of cheap labor in some cases and the farming ended and by the time I was there, things were very different we pretty much sat around most of the day staring at the tv, a few had jobs in the sheltered workshop, but they were a minority.  I think that the thing I had in common with those who were there in the 1900’s was that I knew the feeling of being segregated from the rest of the community, I knew what it was like to hear the heavy doors close behind me and know that this was for real I was in a place I didn’t want to be, didn’t know what to expect, and to be honest at times could be very frightening.  I also experienced the loss of a friend while I was there, so I knew what it was like to have made a friend there only to have them die in a place that was suppose to protect people.  Things were probably somewhat quieter on the wards when I was there then they were in the 1900’s considerin medications have advanced and helped to treat the symptoms that would have previously caused the wards to be more chaotic then they were when I was there.  In all though, I felt like photgraphing the cemetary seemed like something that I couldn’t do not because I was afraid of consequences of taking photos, but rather because of a deep sense of respect for those buried there and knowing some of what they may have experienced.  I plan on going back to the cemetary again to once again pay respect to those who are buried there because in many ways when they were sent to Warren State, society turned their back on them and tried to deny they existed.  I feel like going and paying respects to them is the one decent thing I can do for them now so they aren’t forgotten.

“New technology may expedite DHS services”

http://timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/531515.html?nav=5006

DHS in Warren County, PA is one of the test counties for a program utilizing tablet PC’s to aid employees in managing paperwork demands more efficiently.  The articl found in the June 2, 2010 edition of the Warren Times-Observer describes the technology and the testing program in greater detail.

“Warren Advocates Visit Their Legislator”

Rachel Freund wrote this for the PMHCA Observer released in June 2008.   My friend, Mary Jo, Certified Peer Specialist, and myself (Jenn, C/FST for Warren and Forest Counties employeed by Recovery Services) were the foks who attended the meeting with Rep. Kathy Rapp. I share this on here, not only for the obvious bragging rights to say that I was there, but more importantly to hopefully encourage folks to get to know who their state representatives are and what their stance is on various issues that effect not only each of us individually but also everyone collectively from the local community on up to the state and beyond that to our country.  I was surprised at how easy Rep. Kathy Rapp was to talk to, once we got started.  I was terrified at first thinking things like, ‘ok this is someone with a lot more power then I have and they probably won’t want to hear from me’  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I found that speaking with Rep. Kathy Rapp, was no different then speaking to any other professional I might cross paths with.  So, for those who might feel intimidated by the idea of talking to your representative, don’t be, they generally want to know wat the folks who they work for have to say about the job they are doing.  Letting them know you appreciate the work they do on your behalf is always a good thing but if you truely don’t agree with something they stand for let them know that as well.  They need to hear the good, the bad and the ugly’ so to speak in regards to how folks think they are doing their job.  After all, they work for us as citizens and wouldn’t be in the position they are n if we hadn’t voted them into office.

To view the complete June 2008 issue of the PMHCA Observer, click here

Warren Advocates Visit Their Legislator

On May 27, 2008 two skilled advocates from Warren, PA, Jenn and Mary Jo,

along with PMHCA staffer, Rachel Freund, met with PA House Member,

Kathy Rapp, of the 65th District.

The goal of the visit for Jenn and Mary Jo was to begin building a relationship

with their legislator. Jenn reported, “Mary Jo and I thought the meeting with

Representative Kathy Rapp was enlightening and very productive. We feel that

folks would be happy to learn about how supportive she is of the mental

health community.”

The Warren advocates wore their black “Living on $60 is No Joke” shirts and

made a good case for Representative Rapp supporting House Bill 2253, the bill

to raise the $60 personal needs allowance. “I support these efforts”, Rep. Rapp responded.

They also discussed tough issues facing the mental health community such as the need for more housing and community supports, especially in rural counties like Warren. “My concern is for people who aren’t getting what they require because of a lack of resources,” reported Rep. Rapp. “I work for the citizens of this district and I intend to make sure we that can provide what people need.”

Here are some tips for arranging a visit with your legislator:

  1. First, find out who represents you. Call TOLL FREE to Project Vote Smart: 1-888-VOTE-SMART (1-888-868-3762) – a real live person will help you figure out who your legislator is!
  2. Do your homework. Learn about their interests, their committees and their responsibilities. You can stop by their office and ask a staffer to help you find out about them.
  3. Arrange a visit. Be sure to make arrangements in advance with their staff. Plan a meeting that will last about 30 minutes.
  4. Prepare in advance. Have just one or two points you want to discuss. If you go as a group, be clear who will say what (practice ahead of time!). Be clear about what you are asking your legislator to do.

Congratulations to our friends in Warren who are working hard at advocacy in their community!

If you would like to invite YOUR legislator for a visit, we can help! Contact Rachel at 412-621-4706 x. 22 or at rfreund@verizon.net

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