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Mental Health Advocates and Community Providers Support Allentown State Hospital Closing

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 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 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 MHAPA, PMHCA, and DRN and PCPA.  

SOURCE Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania

SOURCE Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania
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