Department of Public Welfare to Close Allentown State Hospital

Jan 28, 2010, 09:15 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Acting Secretary of Public Welfare Harriet Dichter today announced plans to close Allentown State Hospital in Lehigh County by Dec. 31.

Dichter said the closure is part of Pennsylvania's commitment to reducing its reliance on institutional care and improving access to home- and community-based services for Pennsylvanians living with mental illness.

"For more than 25 years, Pennsylvania has been on the leading edge of developing local partnerships and community based service options that promote recovery for people living with mental illness," said Dichter. "As facilities close, we open doors to opportunities for residents to live their lives to the fullest by returning to their homes and communities as contributing members of society, all while managing their own health and well-being."

The closure of Allentown is part of the department's plan to create a more unified approach to funding community services and supports for those living with mental illness. The department will reinvest the millions of dollars saved to further develop and sustain clinically-based, recovery-oriented services and to continue to improve the mental health service delivery system.

The resident population at Pennsylvania's seven state hospitals has decreased by nearly 65 percent since 1994, from almost 5,000 to the current 1,627.

Allentown State Hospital currently serves approximately 175 residents at its 217 acre campus, with a staff of approximately 379 people and a current budget of $35.3 million. The hospital serves Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe and Pike counties.

Prior to being discharged, hospital residents will participate in a series of assessments in order to determine their level of need for services and support as they look toward a successful life within a more integrated setting, such as a group home, public housing or with family. The assessment process will ensure that safe and appropriate placements are made.

DPW has established a toll-free number for family members of residents of Allentown State Hospital to use during the closure process. Family members will be able to speak with staff from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, by calling 1-877-695-7462.

To aid in the closure process, the department will establish a strong community advisory team made up of Allentown residents, county representatives from the Allentown service area, as well as other interested stakeholders who will monitor and assist the department through the process.  

DPW will hold a public hearing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22, at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel & Suites, 3400 Airport Road, Allentown, to accept comment about the closure from stakeholders, officials and the community. Those wishing to provide comments are asked to register by contacting Beth Neston at (610) 740-3409.

The department will attempt to provide hospital employees with the opportunity to continue their work with the commonwealth, using all of the departments under the Governor's jurisdiction.

Allentown State Hospital was originally opened and received its first resident in 1912, helping to alleviate overcrowding at state hospitals in Norristown and Danville. Originally called the Allentown Homeopathic Hospital for the Insane, it was the first homeopathic institution of its kind in Pennsylvania. As the homeopathic medical approach gradually changed to the more standard medical model, the hospital became known as Allentown State Hospital. The patient population quickly rose to 867 and eventually peaked at 2,107 patients in 1954.

For more information regarding the closure, visit www.dpw.state.pa.us.

Media contact: Stacey Witalec, 717-787-4592

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare



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