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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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“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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