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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.

A walk down history lane

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Root_(Pennsylvania)

The above link,  is to a page in Wikipedia about a man named Joe Root who spent some time living off the land in Erie, PA on Presque Isle.  By now you may be wondering why I’m including this here since it seems like it wouldn’t apply to the general topic of this blog.  Well, it kind of does apply.  Joe Root, from what little I’ve read about him, apparently was an entertainer, and kids loved his ventrilloqy.  Aside from entertaining children, it seems that Joe Root was a bit of a dreamer and came up with ideas like starting a feather factory among other ideas that others would listen to but seemed to find them o be more amusing then anything.  I don’t know what kind of violence occurred, but some say that Joe Root was actually the victim of it some speculate it was to prevent him from collecting squater’s rights on Presque Isle.  The details of the incident that I’ve found have been more like implied statements then anything, but they do indicate that because of this vaguely described violance, Joe Root was sent to Warren State Hospital in Warren, PA.  He spent the rest of his life there from the sounds of things but was said to have repeatedly asked to return to his home on Presque Isle.

So when did this occurr?  well based on Wikipedia, He lived on Presque Isle in the early 1900’s and was comitted to Warren State Hospital then known as “The State Hospital for the Insane at Warren, PA”  the name was later changed to Warren Stae Hospital sometime around 1920 if memory serves me right.  Anyway, Joe Root was committed there and died in 1912.

I guess my reason for sharingthis, is to give folks an idea of how in many ways there has been some if not a lot of progress in how folks with mental illnesses are treated today compared to then in the early days of Warren State.  at that time people could be sent to a state hospital for just about any reason that anyone else thought made the person being comitted seem to not conform to society and while Joe Root seems like the kind of guy we might refer to as eccentric today, at the time, something occurred and someone didn’t agree with what happened probably claimed he was insane (using terminology for the time period) and under the authority of one person like a doctor, law enforcement or anyone that had any kind of authority he was sent to Warren State where I’m guessing he died since he died in 1912 just 2 years after he arrived at Warren State.  Today it takes a team of people to have someone admitted to a state hospital, and in the current goal is to have the person ready for discharge in roughly 6 months to a year.  Today, Joe Root would have needed to have been evaluated by a physician, and met certain criteria before he could have been admitted to Warren State.   There is a lot more to the process, but there are more steps and criteria that need to be taken and met then there once was.

For folks who are in the mental health system receiving treatment, yes, there are many changes occurring and  yes at this pointstate hospitals still exist, but to be sent to one isn’t as easy as it once was, and length of stay is much shorter on average then it was at the time that Joe Root was comitted.

I will close by saying that yes, treatment is better for folks with mental illnesses then it once was, but at the same time as with anything, I feel there is always room for improvement.

Disclaimer:  While I am currently researching the History of Warren State Hospital, I have many questions left unanswered and Joe Root is just one piece of the puzzle.  I do not intend this blog entry to be a precise or complete history, but rather a summary of things I’ve been reading about and some of my own thoughts based on experiences I have had in my own life.  In short this is an opinion post based on many pieces of information.  The information about Joe Root mostly came from Wikipedia, but some of what I said in regards to what the process of him ending up at Warren state is purely speculation based on my limited knowledge of how the system functioned at that time.  I welcome any information anyone wants to send my way, and to be honest am really kind of intrigued with Joe Root’s story so he is someone I’m looking further into. 

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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.

“Cloud of uncertainty hanging over WSH lifted”

This article reverberates the latest update regarding Forensics in Pennsylvania not being privatized.  It is from the Warren Times-Observer, originally printed on March 22, 2008.  It also mentions some possible uses for what use to be doctors’ houses on Warren State’s grounds that were brought up at some point during the extensive discussions surrounding Warren State Hospital.

Cloud of uncertainty hanging over WSH lifted

By CHUCK HAYES chayes@timesobserver.com

The cloud of uncertainty which has hovered over the forensics unit at Warren State Hospital for the past year has been lifted. “It won’t be closed and it won’t be privatized,” State Rep. Kathy Rapp said on Friday.

Rapp said that she was notified of the decision on Thursday evening by the state Department of Public Welfare.

Rapp said the decision was made by Pennsylvania Welfare Secretary Estelle Richman in conjunction with the Rendell administration.

The forensics unit employs 50 people and Rapp said the transfer or elimination of those jobs would have had “a domino effect” on the local economy.

“It would have had a huge impact on the economy here.” said Rapp. “We needed to retain those jobs. I’m very pleased.”

The privatization or possible closure of the forensics unit had been rumored since last April and state officials confirmed in August that privatization of forensic units at Warren and Norristown state hospitals was being considered.

Rapp arranged to have a legislative policy committee hold a public hearing on the issue in Warren and said on Friday she felt the comments offered at that hearing “put pressure on the Department of Public Welfare” to reconsider.

The closing of the unit, said Rapp, could also have placed “a huge burden” on the Warren County Jail and local legal system.

In the event the unit had been closed, Rapp had prepared a bill designed to assure that adequate state funding would be provided for forensic unit patients no longer housed at Warren State Hospital.

In addition to the public efforts to not privatize or close the forensics units in Norristown or Warren, Rapp said there were also behind-the-scenes negotiations involving the state and state correctional officers union.

The Department of Public Welfare said on Friday that after meeting with union leaders, Richman was withdrawing the proposal to consolidate and privatize forensic units.

Under the terms of the agreement between the state and union, the forensic units at Warren and Norristown will remain, while services at Mayview State Hospital will be transferred to Torrance State Hospital after Mayview closes in December.

Warren State Hospital’s forensics unit serves 32 counties and Rapp said that the closing of the unit would have increased the travel burden for many patients’ families.

During her talks with Richman, Rapp said, there was also discussion of using the empty residences on the hospital grounds, formerly used by doctors, as transitional homes for patients.

The welfare secretary is following up on the possibility of using the residences, Rapp said. “Our prisons are filling up with people with mental illness and drug and alcohol problems,” said Rapp. “If we can utilize those houses, that’s great.”

Section: News Date Posted: 3/22/2008

Busy week

Couldn’t decide what to title this, but I felt that with everything that went on last week, I needed to write about at least some of it.  I attended the local and regional CSP meetings, along with a housing meeting, all this while recovering from a badly bruised elbow, which is doing much better at this point for those who know who I am, my hand and arm are feeling almost “normal”.  I got hit with some sort of bug over the weekend, so I’m a little under the weather as I write this I am keeping my box of kleenex within arm’s reach at all times and sleeping when I feel the need to.  today is better then yesterday though, so that’s getting better as well… I was actually awake most of the day unlike Saturday and Sunday where I slept most of the day and didn’t move unless I had to because moving caused me to cough a lung up.  At any rate, it seems it’s been one thing after another, and I’m hoping that the upswing I started today continues, especially since I need to go do some C/FST related work on Wednesday this week.

So, back to the meetings I attended last week ….

Local CSP ….
 Those present at the meeting were again encouraged to attend the Service Area Planning  (SAP) meeting coming up on Friday the 15th from 1:00 to 3:00 in the Warren State Hospital gymnasium.  most of the people at the local CSP meeting were Consumers, but there were a handfull of Professionals as well.  The person leading the meeting put me on the spot and asked me to explain a little about what a C/FST does and what my purpose is.  Since I’m very new to the idea myself, and was far from prepared to speak, I floundered a lot, but I think I got the basic concept out stating that my job is to find out what Consumers and Family members think about the services they receive and any obstacles that might be preventing them from fully accessing services.  I went a little more in depth then that, but that’s the nutshell description.  After my little fumbling explenation, the table was then shifted to a survey of a different kind.  The person running the meeting, had a survey that she needed input from Consumers so she did a group survey by presenting the various questions to the group.  Questions covered topics such as needed supports (i.e. safe housing, transportation to appointments, lack of MA providers for physical health, more funding for ICM’s to ease the caseload, daily living skills, assistance transitioning from the state hospital to the community…etc.).  I don’t recall specifics of what was discussed, but I know the frustration of not having local Medical Doctors who accept the access card was a huge issue that was brought up and discussed at length, because it also has an effect on the transdportation issue, or maybe it would be better to say the two go hand in hand since if we had local doctors who accepted MA, transportation wouldn’t be as big of an issue.

Housing Meeting ….
We discussed target groups and possible ideas on how to assist them in Warren County.  We also discussed ideas for alternative type housing, such as fairwether lodges or other evidence based housing options, but we decided we need to find out if there are other evidence based housing options beyond fairweather lodges, so yours truely got asked to dig around online to see what I can find … so far most of what I have found is links to sites based in the UK so progress is slow not to mention I was sleeping most of saturday and sunday, so I didn’t accomplish much on either of those days, but need to buckle down and get back on track here I can’t stop the world because I can’t breathe through my nose and my head feels like it’s going to explode if I squeaze it too hard, so plug on I must.  I’m going to eventually add a page relating to housing as I get a better feel for what I’m doing with this group since I learn best by researching and then creating some sort of reference point for myself, but I like to share what I learn, so that’s why you get to have all my links available to you 🙂

Western Region CSP (WRCSP) …..
Let’s see … how to sum this one up, I always learn so much when I go to this that it’s tough to decide where to start.  I guess I’ll start with the workgroup I sat in on, which was the Anti-stigma workgroup.  We discussed experiences had by some when going to the emergency room or medical doctor for a clearly medical problem.  Some had positive experiences with nothing to say indicating they had ever ran into trouble, but many of us in the group shared the frustration of being told we were “faking it”, “Pill seeking”, “attention seeking” or any of a number of issues where the provider assumed that since we were Consumers, we weren’t there for a legitimate medical reason and therefore wasting the doctor’s time.  One person described a situation where she was told to go home becaus the doctor didn’t believe she was in any pain … it turned out she had kidney stones.  Another person described a situation where she had dental work and was having a bad reaction to medication that was ordered as part of the treatment for her dental work, only to end up with the ER counting the pills, and disposing of them and then ordering something that didn’t help at all.  In either case the people who described the situations felt that had they not carried the label of Consumer or mentally ill, they probably would have been taken more seriously and not treated with such disregard.  We discussed the possibility of creating a brochure that could be given to hospitals raising awareness about mental illness both for the treatment of patients who enter the hospital, and also for those working in hospitals explaining what having a mental illness and working means to a Consumer and how to reduce the stigma surrounding having a mental illness.  The group decided that for many, being arrested and ending up in jail offered bragging rights, while having a mental illness and not being in trouble with the law meant shame, isolation, stigma and stereotypes placed on us by society and the media.  Our first project is to work on a brochure to educate law enforcement about mental illness and ask for more dignified treatment of mental health consumers by law enforcement (i.e. when transporting a non-violant Consumer do they really need to be humilliated by being handcuffed as though they were a criminal when going from a local hospital to a state hospital for example?).  Needless to say we live in an imperfect world, but it seems that those in the anti-stigma workgroup want to try and improve the world they live in, I know I do, and maybe today it’s brochures … tomorrow, maybe it will be going and talking to different places to further educate them about Mental Illness and the stigmas faced by those with a diagnosis.

NAMISWPA gave an update on Housebill 1448 which seems to be stuck in appropriations, we need to encourage our representatives to vote yes to this bill, but first we need to get it up for consideration on the house floor.  Dan Frankel initiated the bill with the support of quite a few other representatives, and HB1448 if passed into law will create a non-lapsing trustfun from any money gained by the state from the sale or lease of property currently used by state run MH/MR facilities.  This trust fund would be used to help fund Community mental Health services to ensure that community mental health systems aren’t strained by an influx of Consumers from State facilities allowing the communities to have proper supports in place for these folks at the time of their discharge, instead of waiting until the person is discharged and then throwing our hands up as we try and figure out how to fund the services they need in order to integrate into the community.  HB1448 is a timely bill, with the closuree of Mayview on the horizon, and the possibility of other state MH/MR facilities closing in the future.

OMHSAS reported that there are actually 2 Service Area Planning Meetings on February 15th.  Warren State’s SAP is from 1 to 3 and I think it was Mayview that is the same day from 1 to 3:30 Please, if I got this wrong, let me know, because I can’t remember which state hospital had their SAP scheduled the same day as Warren I’m thinking it was either Mayview or Torrance, but I’m not positive  Those 2 stand out in my mind for some reason though.

Well, I think if I make this any longer people will quit reading if they haven’t already, so I’m going to end here, but I have another post inline already so I’m going to do a shorter more traditional post for it.

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