Local State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65) wants a meeting with the state Department of Public Welfare's director about patient capacity issues at Warren State Hospital.
At a quarterly board of trustees meeting held earlier this month, WSH CEO Charlotte Uber said that current bed usage at the hospital is at 177, a number fast approaching the 190-bed cap set by the state. She noted that within the 13-county area served by the hospital, some counties are using more than their allotted bed cap while others were using less.
"Because we're getting so many referrals," Uber explained, "we're encouraging counties over their bed cap to have someone discharged before sending somebody else."
She noted the state is continually lowering the hospital's bed cap, while the number of referrals to the facility, and the severity of the nature of those referrals, has steadily increased.
Rapp, in a letter dated Feb. 20 and addressed to acting DPW Secretary Beverly Mackereth, requested a meeting in Warren "with you personally and concerned members of the community and area legislators to discuss these critical issues."
Rapp said in the letter that she initiated a meeting at the capitol in 2011, that included legislators, the governor's office and constituents among others, where, "We discussed our concerns regarding our citizens with disabilities, especially those with developmental disabilities and the closing of this facility."
The facility was the forensic unit at Warren State Hospital, which DPW closed in December 2010.
"This move has created a financial burden on county budgets, specifically the county criminal justice system," Rapp wrote. "It has also created a financial hardship for families who now must travel south of Pittsburgh to see their family members."
Rapp also expressed concern at the bed cap instituted by the state.
"The state has set a bed cap of 196 at Warren State Hospital," the letter explains. "Currently, the bed usage at the hospital is close to the cap, generating concern within our communities. Many people are languishing on a waiting list while the hospital has the capacity to serve more individuals."
Rapp forwarded Mackereth a copy of articles from the Times Observer that addressed those concerns. "As you read the attached articles, you will note people in the community are alarmed," she wrote.
"It is my personal opinion that the state Department of Public Welfare has a responsibility to care for our most needy citizens not based on whether there is an available bed, but based on their individual need," Rapp said. "I am requesting a face to face meeting at Warren State Hospital with you personally and concerned members of the community.... Our invitation to visit Warren State Hospital and the concerns we addressed at the meeting in 2011 continue to be real issues facing our county, and the frustrations expressed at that meeting continue on."
Copies of the letter were sent to the governor's office, State Senators Scott Hutchinson and Joseph Scarnati, as well as the county commissioners of both Warren and Forest counties.