Rapp Takes State Hospital Closing Moratorium Mission to Speaker's Symposium on Crime and Violence
1/8/2008
District 65 Lawmaker not backing down on protecting patients, jobs and services at Warren State Hospital despite partisan attempts to kill bill
 
Despite partisan attempts to bury her legislation (House Bill 1455), which calls for a moratorium on all future state hospital closings until a study is completed to determine the approximate number state and county prison inmates suffering from mental illness, in the PA House Health and Human Services committee, Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren) confirmed today that she is moving forward with her ongoing battle to protect the patients, jobs and community services at Warren State Hospital.
 
“Two times over the past several months my commonsense moratorium legislation has been on the House Health and Human Services Committee voting calendar,” confirmed Rapp. “On at least one of those occasions the Rendell administration irresponsibly asserted their partisan influence over the House Health and Human Services Majority Committee Chairman to keep my bill, which has the support of nearly 70 state lawmakers, from advancing to the House floor for consideration.   
 
Her next course of action will be to travel with Forest/Warren County Director of Human Services Mary Kushner to Philadelphia this coming Thursday to participate in House Speaker Dennis Obrien’s Symposium on Crime, Violence and Mental Health Issues.
 
“How many lives have to be lost or endangered before the Rendell administration gives up on this wrong-headed cost-shifting state hospital deinstitutionalization scheme that directly coincides with hundreds of severely mentally ill patients, many of them who are repeat sexual predators, being discharged into the streets and inevitably back into county and state correctional facilities,” said Rapp. “Not even one dollar saved due to the closure of a state hospital or the privatization of a forensic unit can justify yet another repeat offense from a rapist or a pedophile.”
 
The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare’s (DPW) announcement of the December 2008 closure of Mayview State Hospital in Allegheny County and the potential privatization of forensic staff at both Warren and Norristown state hospitals prompted Rapp to author her legislation. According to the DPW, the privatization of more than 200 forensic jobs, including the forensic unit at Warren State Hospital, “will cut costs by 20 percent,” while “at the same time enhance community based services.”
 
In sharp contrast, the following information compiled by the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association clearly indicates that the DPW’s flawed cost-shifting strategy of closing state hospitals, dismantling state hospital forensic units and entrusting these essential public services to the lowest possible bidder on the privatization auction block is an unnecessary, dangerous and over-expensive public policy gamble that continues to put both patient and public safety at risk, while dramatically increasing mental health care costs in Pennsylvania and across the nation:
 
Nationwide: Over the past three decades, the deinstitutionalizing of state hospitals has coincided with a dramatic increase of jailed mentally ill persons.   According to Federal Bureau of Justice statistics, there are currently 1.25 million prison inmates suffering from debilitating mental conditions such as schizophrenia and post-dramatic stress disorder. Moreover, studies show that inmates suffering from mental illness remain in jail eight times longer than other inmates, at seven times the cost. 
 
Florida: In Clearwater, a schizophrenic inmate gouged out his eye after waiting weeks for a hospital bed. Taxpayers in Miami-Dade County spend $100,000 each day to house and care for mentally ill prison inmates
 
Michigan: Due largely to the closing of the Northville Psychiatric Hospital, one of the last public mental health facilities in the metropolitan Detroit area, a study conducted in three Michigan counties found that 50 percent of prison inmates suffered from some form of mental illness, while 34 percent were diagnosed with severe mental illness.
 
Philadelphia:  A study conducted on the replacement of the 500-bed Philadelphia State Hospital with a community based treatment program revealed that direct treatment costs actually increased from $68,446 to $78,929 and the price tag for annual cost to care treatment increased from $48,631 to $66,794. These increases do not include the additional cost incurred by Philadelphia-area correctional facilities to hire more staff and medical experts to deal with the significant influx in mentally ill inmates.
 
Allegheny County: Authorities believe that Anthony Fallert, a 24-year old schizophrenic patient discharged from Mayview State Hospital, walked  away from the community-based program he was assigned to on Pittsburgh’s south side and either jumped or fell to his death from the Birmingham Bridge where he drowned in the Mongahela River on Oct. 29, 2007.  
 
“Tragic reports and statistics like these prove that any time a state hospital is shut down or an experienced and skilled forensic unit such as the staff at Warren State Hospital is privatized, greatly increases the possibility that our most vulnerable citizens suffering from schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder or substance addiction will wind up unnecessarily incarcerated, unfairly exploited or otherwise victimized in mainstream society,” said Rapp. “We can only hope that my moratorium legislation finally receives an open-minded reception at Thursday’s Speaker’s Symposium on Crime and Violence, than it has thus far from the Rendell administration and the House Health and Human Services Committee. Placing partisan politics above the safety and well-being of all Pennsylvania citizens is not only inexcusable, it is absolutely inhumane.”  
 
Rep. Kathy Rapp
65th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
(814) 723-5203
(717) 787-1367
www.RepRapp.com
Contact: Ty McCauslin
House Republican Public Relations
(717) 772-9979
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 8, 2008