Rapp Declares Governor’s Budget Bailout Scheme to Close Warren State Hospital Forensics Unit Absolutely Insane

Rendell places Arlen Specter Library, John Murtha Center and stadium funding above treating mentally ill and ensuring public safety against sexual predators


Reemphasizing her unwavering commitment to protecting the many jobs and community services provided on the campus of Warren State Hospital, Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Forest/McKean) today harshly criticized the governor’s and the Department of Public Welfare’s (DPW) decision to consolidate and close the facility’s Regional Forensic Psychiatric Unit effective Oct. 31.


“Given the Commonwealth’s more than $40 billion in interest-accruing state debt that is the direct result of eight consecutive years of unsustainable and unrestrained government spending, there is no doubt that one of the biggest legacies of the outgoing Rendell administration will be blatant fiscal irresponsibility,” said Rapp.   “However, the governor’s most recent decision to close one of our state’s most cost-efficient and effective forensics units in order to preserve hundreds of millions of dollars in newly borrowed, special interest discretionary funding or WAMS, including $10 million for the Arlen Specter Library at Philadelphia University, another $10 million for the John Murtha Center for Public Policy and $20 million for a new minor league baseball stadium in Lackawanna County, is absolutely insane.”    


According to Rapp, who spearheaded the successful effort, less than three years ago, to defeat the governor’s previous proposal to privatize the Warren State Hospital forensics unit, the $2.3 million in annual savings that DPW estimates will be realized from closing this facility will be more than canceled out for the following reasons:


As the only forensics facility in Northwestern, Pennsylvania, the Warren State Hospital forensics unit serves 32 counties, nearly 50 percent of Pennsylvania, and the closing and relocation of this facility to Torrance State Hospital, located in Southwestern Pennsylvania, will greatly increase the economic burden on Warren County government and family members who play such a significant role in the rehabilitation process.


Warren State Hospital employs nearly 50 highly experienced forensic professionals and the transfer or elimination of these family-sustaining jobs will have a devastating domino economic impact on both local and surrounding Northwestern Pennsylvania communities.


Finally, the closing or “de-institutionalization” of the Warren State Hospital forensics unit will dramatically increase mental health care costs and the number of prison inmates housed in the Warren County jail and the surrounding criminal justice system.


“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 consolidated or eliminated, 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,” reiterated Rapp.  “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 and dismantling our state hospital forensic units?”


Continuing her ongoing fight to protect state taxpayers, in early July Rapp voted against the 2010-11 $28.4 billion state budget which was dependent on $850 million in unapproved federal funding and included a provision to allow state government to borrow an additional $600 million for special interest discretionary funding or WAMs.   All totaled, Rendell has complete discretion over how 50 percent of this unnecessary WAM funding is allocated for “economic development projects.”


“How many lives have to be lost or endangered before the Rendell administration gives up completely on this and other wrong-headed, cost-shifting state hospital de-institutionalization schemes that directly coincide with hundreds of severely mentally ill patients being discharged into the streets and inevitably back into county and state correctional facilities?” said Rapp.   “Not even one penny saved by the consolidation of a regional forensics unit or the closure of an entire state hospital can justify yet another innocent victim when state government refuses to fulfill one of its most essential functions of protecting individuals who cannot take care of themselves.   Placing partisan political spending above the safety and well-being of law-abiding Pennsylvania taxpayers is inexcusable, absolutely inhumane and, as such, cannot be tolerated.”


For the latest legislative updates, visit RepRapp.com.


Rep. Kathy Rapp
65th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
(814) 723-5203
(717) 787-1367


Contact:  Ty McCauslin

 (717) 772-9979

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