DPW Objections and "Reassurances" Will Not Deter Rapp in Moving Forward with Resolution to Determine Number of Prison Inmates Suffering from Mental Illness and Substance Abuse
9/24/2007
Despite a telephone call, a letter and finally a district office visit on Friday morning from Department of Public Welfare (DPW) Secretary Estelle Richman to offer her objections that there are no “immediate plans" to close Warren State Hospital, Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren) spent the first day of the fall legislative session in Harrisburg gathering nearly 60 co-sponsors for her soon-to-be-introduced legislation calling for a moratorium on all future state hospital and forensic unit closings. 
 
“Thanks to research conducted by the State Department of Corrections, we already know that no less than 42.8 percent of women incarcerated in our county and state prisons are primarily there due to some form of mental illness," said Rapp. “Any time a state hospital is shut down or an experienced and skilled forensic unit such as the staff at the Warren State Hospital is privatized, it greatly increases the possibility that our most vulnerable citizens suffering from schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder and drug addiction will wind up unnecessarily incarcerated, unfairly exploited or otherwise victimized in mainstream society. 
 
“Before one more state hospital closes all or part of its facilities, Pennsylvania needs to accurately determine how many of our state and county prison inmates are suffering from mental illness and would be properly served by being institutionalized rather than incarcerated alongside actual criminals," she said.
 
DPW’s announcement of the December 2008 closure of Mayview State Hospital in Allegheny County and the potential privatization of forensic staff at both the Warren and Norristown state hospitals prompted Rapp to author this resolution. It also calls for a study to determine the approximate number of state and county prison inmates who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse.   
 
On Friday, Sept. 7, Rapp hosted a House Republican Policy committee hearing on this issue at the Warren Public Library and a tour of Warren State Hospital.
 
“In addition to reemphasizing my unwavering commitment to keeping the many jobs and community services provided on the campus of Warren State House off the privatization and hospital closure chopping blocks, I also reminded Secretary Richman that Warren State Hospital and its experienced forensic staff effectively serve patients from 32 counties or more than half of the Commonwealth.    
 
“I also stressed both the negative fiscal impacts that transporting forensic inmates from Warren to Norristown, which is no less than seven hours away in Southeastern Pennsylvania, or Torrance, which is no less than four hours away in Southwestern Pennsylvania, would have on both Warren County government and local family members who play such a significant role in a rehabilitation process.  
 
“On a more positive note, Secretary Richman and I discussed the possibility of renovating the unoccupied physicians homes located on the grounds of Warren State Hospital to provide treatment for recovering alcohol and drug addicts," she added.
 
Rapp also announced her participation in DPW’s upcoming meeting with state legislators this coming Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Room 108 of the State Capitol’s Irvis Office Building.   DPW describes this meeting as a first in a series of monthly meetings to discuss the closure of Mayview. In addition, she will also be attending the upcoming series of meetings that PA House Speaker Dennis O’Brien is facilitating between DPW and several state criminal justice officials, the first of which be held on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 2:30 p.m. in the Speaker’s Office at the State Capitol.   
 
There will also be a second House Republican Policy Committee hearing on mental health and substance abuse among county and state prison inmates held at the State Capitol in the near future.
 
“One of the most personally appalling parts of this year’s state budget for me and which also factored heavily into my final NO vote was the governor’s insistence upon using more than $1.1 billion in gambling-dependent revenue over the next 30 years to build a new Philadelphia convention center and a new arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Then shortly afterward, he has the audacity to extend his empty hands yet again and ask Pennsylvania taxpayers to come up with the additional revenue necessary to build three new prisons.
 
“If the governor is so committed to providing quality health care to all Pennsylvania citizens, why is he so eager to hand out hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare, while denying thousands of our state’s most vulnerable citizens the mental health treatment they need by continuing to close our state hospitals, dismantling our state hospital forensic units and entrusting these essential public services to the lowest possible bidder on the privatization auction block?
 
“Whether its three new prisons or no new prisons, transforming our state and county correctional facilities into insane asylums reminiscent of the 19th century is an inexcusable crime against humanity leading to prison overcrowding, more sexual and violent predators roaming the streets, higher taxpayer costs and even more severely mentally ill individuals ending up homeless, behind bars, or worst of all, in the morgue well before their time," added Rapp.  
 
For the latest legislative updates visit RepRapp.com.
 
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