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“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.

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