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Thursday, January 28, 2010

DPW: Allentown State Hospital to Close

Acting Secretary of Public Welfare Harriet Dichter today announced plans to close Allentown State Hospital in Lehigh County by Dec. 31.

Dichter said the closure is part of Pennsylvania’s commitment to reducing its reliance on institutional care and improving access to home- and community-based services for Pennsylvanians living with mental illness.

“For more than 25 years, Pennsylvania has been on the leading edge of developing local partnerships and community based service options that promote recovery for people living with mental illness,” said Dichter. “As facilities close, we open doors to opportunities for residents to live their lives to the fullest by returning to their homes and communities as contributing members of society, all while managing their own health and well-being.”

The closure of Allentown is part of the department’s plan to create a more unified approach to funding community services and supports for those living with mental illness. The department will reinvest the millions of dollars saved to further develop and sustain clinically-based, recovery-oriented services and to continue to improve the mental health service delivery system.

The resident population at Pennsylvania’s seven state hospitals has decreased by nearly 65 percent since 1994, from almost 5,000 to the current 1,627.

Allentown State Hospital currently serves approximately 175 residents at its 217 acre campus, with a staff of approximately 379 people and a current budget of $35.3 million. The hospital serves Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe and Pike counties.

Prior to being discharged, hospital residents will participate in a series of assessments in order to determine their level of need for services and support as they look toward a successful life within a more integrated setting, such as a group home, public housing or with family. The assessment process will ensure that safe and appropriate placements are made.

DPW has established a toll-free number for family members of residents of Allentown State Hospital to use during the closure process. Family members will be able to speak with staff from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, by calling 1-877-695-7462.

To aid in the closure process, the department will establish a strong community advisory team made up of Allentown residents, county representatives from the Allentown service area, as well as other interested stakeholders who will monitor and assist the department through the process.

DPW will hold a public hearing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22, at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel & Suites, 3400 Airport Road, Allentown, to accept comment about the closure from stakeholders, officials and the community. Those wishing to provide comments are asked to register by contacting Beth Neston at (610) 740-3409.

The department will attempt to provide hospital employees with the opportunity to continue their work with the commonwealth, using all of the departments under the Governor’s jurisdiction.

Allentown State Hospital was originally opened and received its first resident in 1912, helping to alleviate overcrowding at state hospitals in Norristown and Danville. Originally called the Allentown Homeopathic Hospital for the Insane, it was the first homeopathic institution of its kind in Pennsylvania. As the homeopathic medical approach gradually changed to the more standard medical model, the hospital became known as Allentown State Hospital. The patient population quickly rose to 867 and eventually peaked at 2,107 patients in 1954.


This story is also reported in The Express Times and Capitol Ideas.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

Closing our institutions for the mentally ill has been a travesty. Almost all of the so called “homeless” are in fact people who would have been cared for by previous generations in places like the state hospital. Now we let them fend for themselves on the streets. Why?

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

OMG! Scott we actually agree on something! The fact is, there are many mentally ill people who can live in society, however there are MANY who cannot and some become a danger to themselves and/or others. I am very upset that they are closing this facility.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Scott, You can see the decline in population, but still raise a good point. Will these people just end up on the streets? I notice the DPW is very vague about what it intends to do w/ the "millions" saved.

The state, like A-town, is in the red. I wonder whether this closure is motivated by a change in the direction of mental health, or whether Rendell just wants to save a few bucks.

The mentally ill, unlike senior citizens or unions, do not have a very effective lobby.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I think budgetary concerns have been masked by altruistic rhetoric that claims the mentally have not been well served by institutions. Precious little follow up has been done on what happens to those who have been given their freedom.
Several years ago a renter from a nearby property began acting very strangely on the sidewalk in front of the house, I called the police and the landlord. The police were useless but the landlord told me the tenet was (unbeknown to him when he signed the lease) a schizophrenic. Clearly he had gone off his medication. After calls to adult services some mental health people told the reluctant police to take the person to a facility where he could be held temporarily. I was told I would have to appear at a mental health hearing in Quakertown so that a determination could be made “ to hold” the person for two weeks otherwise he would be released immediately. I took the trouble and the time to attend the hearing in Quakertown and the person was held for two weeks. After that he would be released and could presume the cycle would repeat itself.
This seemed absurd to me but that is how it was and remains. For some convoluted reason we have liberated the mentally ill from institutions only to see them live tortured existences on our streets.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

agreed with scott. this really is troubling b/c I doubt there is a plan to assist those who need help.

Anonymous said...

sorry. that was me at 9:10 PM

Geoff

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

Your post was deleted bc you blame county human services directors for a problem that is state-created. Your comment was posted at the same time that a number of other vicious comments were posted anonymously. I will not allow you to post here unless you identify yourself.

lighthouse said...

Scott wrote: "I think budgetary concerns have been masked by altruistic rhetoric that claims the mentally have not been well served by institutions."

You've got it. Taking the figures from the quoted press release, $35,300,000 divided by 175 residents = $210,714.28.

Back in the early 90's I worked with a program for adults with "severe and profound" disabilities. I remember having to pick up two clients at A.S.H., and many of our other clients had at one point been institutionalized. That sad reality is none of those residents can survive on their own. They will either end up through some underfunded local agency or on the street (after passing through family).

There is no cost-effective way to be "humane." So, I refer you back to Scott's quote.

Anonymous said...

Is Bernie homeless now?

Anonymous said...

Of course the Human Service Directors have a stake in this. What are you thinking Mr. Ohare. Christ do you think this is the first time the State tried to slip this in. Special Ed Pawlowski is salivating over the State Hospital land for development.

He tried to get it as the Allentown Economic Development Director but the past Directors double teamed his backroom talks and worked to save the Hospital with the state representatives. We have been down this road. Of course the state wants to do this. They have wanted to do this for 15 years. People familiar with the history and lay of the land have been watching and working.

It appears the current Directors may have been asleep at the switch, maybe not but they need to push back and get an acute facility before all the land is sold.

We are not concerned with your political alliances and who you want to protect and who you want to bash. This is serious for a very vulnerable population. Can you please stop playing politics for once and help get this information out there.

State Hospital Stakeholder!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'll allow the comment. Your comment came at the same time that I was being spammed by a troll who blames Stoffa for everything.

I apologize, and am glad you reposted.

I welcome different views, but not personal attacks or OT comments. I assumed you were one of the persons who does that, and I have no tolerance for anything they post. When I am being spammed, as happened three times tonight, I have to react strongly. I hope you can understand that.

Chris Casey said...

Christ Bernie! If they close the State Hospital, what are they going to do with all us bloggers when they finally get around to gathering us all up and confining us for our own good?!

Anonymous said...

It is the desire of the East Allentown Rittersville Neighborhood Association for the Allentown State Hospital, a good neighbor of ours, to remain Open. Unfortunately the DPW's irrevocable announcement of the closure of the State Hospital on or by December 31. 2010 may be the last word on the subject.

Consequently, we turn our focus to its reuse. Not that we want to. But from the sense of reality.

It is fact that the City of Allentown sees the sale and development of the open area of the Hospital as one of the solutions to its current financial problems; and other groups look at the land to advance their social and development interests. The truism here, is that none of these interests care how their plans would impact on those closest to ground zero.

Therefore, we assert and proclaim that whatever major decision that is to be made for reuse of this property should be in the best interest of those who live nearby the site. Therefore, we request that the residents of East Allentown Rittersville Neighborhood as well as the Association be kept abreast of all activities related to the redevelopment of this site and be invited to all hearing, meetings and discussions ... It is the last thing we want is for the Politicians and Special Interests who do not live in the area to make things worse for the neighbors that live in this area in order to advance their particular agenda for their benefit..... Dennis Pearson, President of the East Allentown=Rittersville Neighborhood Association

Anonymous said...

Our treatment of the mentally ill is not much improved from 100 years ago. Incredibly, it seems we're moving backward from there. We spend so much money and resources on preventable ailments (heart disease, certain cancers, AIDS), and do little to address the heartbreaking affliction of mental illness. The mentally ill don't get ribbons and rubber bracelets.

Anonymous said...

County or State, politicians piss money away year after year, and when they come up short, dump on the elderly indigent or the severely mentally ill.

Until the entitlement programs known as public wages, benefits and pensions are addressed, the bleeding will continue. This is just a tiny bandaid placed on a jugular gash.

The burden of years of poor management placed on the backs of the most vulnerable.

Gutless cowards.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this closure has been a slow death for many years. When I worked there in the 80's, all the buildings were in use. I transferred to another job for a while, but when I returned in the 90's there was a start to transfer some of the more elderly patients out to facilities that were more equipped to take care of their needs and close those units. Now most of the buildings are contracted out to other agencies not related to the state.

Anonymous said...

Sell Cedarbrook and Gracedale to the private sector and provide bi-county indigent care at ASH.

Anonymous said...

Is it true there is a group of albinos living there?

Lady Rep said...

I would love to know if there are any care benefits and cost benefits to a series of group home settings (which should be closely monitored) vs. a larger institution for those who really need the care. This is a segment of society that really needs that attention and care (as long as my tax money is being used WISELY and for the best solution).

I know that there will be people who fall between the cracks...very unfortunate, and that is where our disfunctional government fails best. Those are the ones who concern me. Everytime our government creates a new "system", I shudder because they create new inefficiency and people suffer...the ones being "served" and the ones paying for it.

Anonymous said...

This site should have townhomes and single family homes built along the budgeted new ASD middle school(site not yet chosen) and a mostly passive park. This will provide an opportunity for new families to join the east side community or for existing families in the area to upgrade without leaving the city.

Some of the existing buildings could be used for senior housing or small scale medical office space but in reality I think there are to too many of them, too far from any highway exit to make use of them all. Some will likely be torn down in time.

A hospital or university is nice in theory but these institutions likely would not choose a site so far from the nearest limited access highway. On top of it, these institutions pay no taxes so it really might not be such a good idea for a site so far from downtown anyway.

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts on rehabbing the unfortunate closing of Allentown State Hospital, reuse as drug rehab and work release with Northampton and Lehigh, working together!

Anonymous said...

And guess what, they have to put the patients somewhere. Look around your neighborhood and you will see many of them in so called "group homes". While some do deserve to be in these homes, there are some very disturbed people that should not. You quality of life suffers if you live next to or close to some group homes. Just ask someone who does.

lighthouse said...

I can't help but wonder if White's "Rajah of Rezoning" isn't eyeing the place up...he could combine senior housing, treatment centers, and prison all on one site.

lighthouse said...

Back to seriousness though, what will happen to those currently there? The fact that they are the final 175 would suggest that they are the those with the most serious illnesses.

Anonymous said...

I think this decision has been made by people who have no experience or knowledge of caring for the mentally ill. There are some that will be suitable for group home situations but many who can barely function - if at all. What about them? What do you tell the families of these patients? Trim the fat from the people and places that make excessive amounts of $$ and are bleeding the taxpayers. Leave institutions such as Allentown State intact

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Some thoughts on rehabbing the unfortunate closing of Allentown State Hospital, reuse as drug rehab and work release with Northampton and Lehigh, working together!

Anonymous ... Have you thought how this would impact on the quality of life of the people living around the former State Hospital ... There might be a security issue here... Northampton County Executive Stoffa suggested years ago that the former State Hospital Grounds become the Social Agency Capital of the World ... He can say that sewcured in his Ivory Tower in Easton ... But the residents might be adversely impacted by that....

VJMJ said...

Chor-Bishop Seely Beggiani on Being a Priest

VJMJ said...

Chor-Bishop Seely Beggiani on Being a Priest

Bernie O'Hare said...

The above link to yet another attack on Father Alex shows just Villa as nuts and hateful. I guess giving him a forearm at the courthouse is not enough. He will be unable to continue spammin this blog with his hate now that DISQUS is installed.

Anonymous said...

I am very concerned that these people are going to fall through the cracks once they are released who is really going to make sure they continue therapy and medication once they leave the facility? willthey just wind up in prison for something ridiculous? I hope it works out