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“Conference tackles mental health issues: Treatment or incarceration”


storeroom (Photo credit: suttonhoo)



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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?




“Bollinger Enterprises, Inc. (BEi) celebrates 40th year”

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This November 6, 2012 article found on the Warren Times Observer website, talks about the 40th Anniversary of Bollinger Enterprises, Inc. in North Warren, PA.


“Help For Homeless”

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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.


Music And Humor Helps Lift Spirits – post-journal.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – Jamestown | Post-Journal

Music And Humor Helps Lift Spirits – post-journal.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – Jamestown | Post-Journal.

This was found in the November 3, 2010 edition of the Jamestown Post-Journal (Jamestown, NY)  I liked the letter and since these folks have gone into Warren State Hospital, despite being from New York state, I felt it was something worth sharing here since it does in my opinion demonstrate how someone who happens to have a disability can still bring a smile to the face of others who are struggling.

For those wondering where Jamestown is, it’s along the NY/PA state line about 30 minutes from Warren, PA it’s not unusual for folks from Jamestown area to come to Warren to shop and for folks from Warren to shop in Jamestown so it’s what some may call a “border town” to PA.

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“Forensic closure at WSH on track”


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?!”


“New technology may expedite DHS services”


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.

“Area autism specialist appointed”

This article was found in the Warren Times-Observer in the April 2, 2009 edition, at … http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/514638.html

It is more of a localized article but I thought it would be a good one to post  for those in the Warren County area.

Area autism specialist appointed

There is a new face of the autism program in Warren and Forest counties.

Penny Thompson was recently appointed program coordinator for the Rural Autism Program covering the two counties.

The program is sponsored by the Dr. Gertrude A. Barber National Institute in Erie, and offers services and resources to children and families for the diagnosis and treatment of autism.

For the past five years, Thompson has been involved with early intervention services for infants and toddlers. She most recently served as coordinator for the Venango County Early Intervention Program and was previously the director of the Easter Seals Society, Venango County Division.

“I’m very familiar about what families need and want and look for and the idea that getting kids early into services, it doesn’t matter what the disability is,” said Thompson.

“This (program) is taking other services and helping a family along,” she added.

An important focus of the program has been getting children the necessary services early.

“We’re picking up kids earlier and we’re finding that the earlier they get the services that they need, the better it is,” explained Thompson.

Teleconferencing and telepsychiatry, which include facilitating child psychiatrists in Erie to conduct live video evaluations, are tools that will hopefully be increased in the future.

“Telepsychiatry is the big and the new thing that’s happening,” said Thompson.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and an informative window display will be set up at Warren Public Library describing the signs and symptoms of autism as well as a video conference with a psychiatrist in Erie that will be telecasted to Warren Area High School.

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects nearly one in 150 children and impacts their learning and social skills. Symptoms include a child avoiding eye contact or uneven physical or verbal skills.

A recently passed insurance act will assist families with the expense of services.

The Autism Insurance Act, which takes effect July 1, requires many private insurers to begin covering the costs of diagnostic assessments for autism and services for those with autism under the age of 21.

“It’s really kind of a good thing because if they have private insurance through their employer, now they’ll be able to access services through that,” said Glynn Chase, director of business development for the Barber Institute.

The act also requires the state Department of Public Welfare to cover the costs for eligible individuals who have no private insurance coverage and establishes minimum license qualifications for professional behavior specialists.

The Rural Autism Program is located at 27 Hospital Dr. on the Warren State Hospital grounds and can be contacted at 726-8440.

“Thousands set to get extra $250 in benefits”

This was an article in my local paper, the Warren Times-Observer found in the March 24, 2009 edition.  I don’t know if this is a state wide thing or not, but I’m guessing it might be since it has to do with President Obama’s recent economic stimulus package.  I’ll try to confirm if it is state wide or not but for now it looks like folks on SSI and Disability could be expecting a check for $250 by the end of May.   The article can be found in it’s original format at … http://timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/514279.html

As many as 45,000 Social Security and Supplementary Security Income beneficiaries in Chautauqua and Warren counties will receive a $250 check by the end of May thanks to the recently adopted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Best of all, the only thing recipients will have to do is wait for the check to arrive in the mail. ‘‘It’s going to get to them without their having to apply for it,’’ said Mary Ann Spanos, county Office for the Aging director. Between the Jamestown and Dunkirk service areas, which together cover all of Chautauqua and Warren County, there are approximately 41,500 people receiving retirement, survivor and disability benefits and approximately 5,000 receiving SSI benefits, according to the Social Security Administration. Some SSI beneficiaries also receive retirement, survivor and disability payments, and they won’t be getting a second check. And not all beneficiaries are eligible, like probation and parole violators, minor children only receiving Social Security benefits and Medicaid beneficiaries at medical treatment facilities receiving benefits at a reduced rate. Nevertheless, the provision has the potential to inject more than $10 million into the Chautauqua and Warren County economies since most of those who collected benefits in November, December or January will qualify. Other provisions in the economic stimulus package included the $400 Making Work Pay tax credit, which will cut most workers’ tax withholdings by a few dollars a week for the rest of the year, and various tax credits for homes, cars and energy-saving upgrades.

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