revised draft - Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania

Sue Walther
[email protected]
January 28, 2010
HARRISBURG: The mental health advocacy and provider communities in Pennsylvania support the
decision by the PA Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to close Allentown State Hospital (ASH), an
institution for people who have mental illnesses.
Up to 125 people from ASH and Wernersville State Hospital (WeSH) will return to communities of their
choice, and up to 65 will transfer from ASH to WeSH. Although it would be ideal if every person was
discharged to the community, mental health advocates and providers endorse DPW’s decision, as it will
enable the reintegration of approximately 125 people into the community and support community-based
recovery and the development of recovery services that work.
“Having been a psychiatric patient myself, both in the community and a state hospital, I have
experienced the full spectrum of treatment,” said Pennsylvania resident Dan Craig. “I learned to
participate in the community and form relationships by living in the community. Having mental illness
symptoms doesn’t limit the possibilities of anyone’s life. Everyone is capable of holding jobs,
volunteering, being a member of a church, synagogue, mosque or temple, participating politically, or
going back to school. These are all things that build our society, and enhance everyone’s quality of
life. Recovery is possible for everyone!”
“We have evidence that people living with mental illness are best served in supportive communities,”
said Judy Banks, deputy director of the Disability Rights Network of PA (DRN). “Recovery comes from
living in small, integrated community settings with individualized supports, not from institutionalization.
We want this reality for every person who currently is in a state hospital and the closure of ASH is
another step toward achieving that goal.”
The importance of community integration to the recovery of people with serious mental illnesses has
been endorsed by such experts as the Office of the Surgeon General (in its 1999 report, “Mental
Health: A Report of the Surgeon General”) and by the President’s New Freedom Commission on
Mental Health in its 2003 report.
Advocates point to the recent closings of three state hospitals as examples of the benefits of
community integration.
In December 2008, Mayview State Hospital (MHS) closed, discharging individuals from Allegheny,
Beaver, Lawrence, and Washington Counties to their communities, where they continue to receive
regular, individualized, tailored supports around behavioral health, housing, employment, education,
social activities, and physical health. A year later, a majority of those discharged into the community
continue to reside in community-based residences.
Harrisburg State Hospital (HSH) closed in January 2006, with 187 of the 289 discharged individuals
moving into the community. In a report issued one year later, the overwhelming majority of these
residents remained in their communities thanks to ongoing, community-based care and services.
In 1990 Philadelphia State Hospital (PSH) closed its doors. Five years later, a study by the Pew
Charitable Trusts found that the overwhelming majority of those released at the time of closure
were living successfully in the community.
“Successful closures were made possible because the funding that supported the hospitals followed the
individuals into the community to enhance the community based system of services and supports” said
George Kimes, executive director of Pennsylvania Community Providers Association (PCPA). “It is
essential that the resources supporting ASH move into the community.”
“Individuals experience success after hospitalization when mental health professionals and
communities are responsive to their unique strengths and needs,” said Lynn Keltz, executive director of
PA Mental Health Consumers' Association (PMHCA). “PMHCA encourages self determination with
strong peer support and recovery oriented treatment.”
“For someone who has never been in an institution, the stark contrast between community and
institutional life is difficult to imagine,” said Sue Walther, executive director of the Mental Health
Association in Pennsylvania (MHAPA). “But those who have can attest to the fact that people with
even the most serious mental illnesses, including those with the least relief from their symptoms, can
be served much more effectively in the community than within the walls of a state institution.”
Pennsylvania statewide organizations that support the decision to close the state hospital include