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Keystone Human Services Comments on the Closing of Harrisburg State Hospital
Keystone Human Services was founded in the early 1970s by a group of individuals who were convinced that many of the people who lived in Harrisburg State Hospital could have meaningful and productive lives in the community. Some of Keystone's founders were employees at Harrisburg State Hospital, while others were community leaders working in the field of community mental health.
In subsequent decades, the number of people residing in Harrisburg State Hospital decreased from over 3,400 to fewer than 270, and Pennsylvania has now become a national leader in the creation of high quality, effective community-based services for people experiencing the symptoms of serious and persistent mental illness. We are proud to have played a part in that transition.
Pennsylvania's community service system is county-based and offers a comprehensive array of services that include inpatient services, outpatient services, partial hospitalization, residential treatment, community-based homes, supervised apartments, in-home support, vocational support, case management, children's mental health services, school-based student assistance, social rehabilitation, crisis intervention and counseling.
The community system has developed a sophisticated and extensive treatment and support capacity, critical to the individuals who experience symptoms of serious mental illness and their families. Statistics show that more than one-third of families will have a member who experiences mental illness.
Unfortunately, over the last ten years the capacity of our community support system has failed to keep pace with community needs. The funds available have not matched the increasing need for services or the increasing expenses of providing effective services. We all share in the human cost of a critical-care health system that is structurally underfunded, struggling daily to meet the needs of some of our communities' most vulnerable people.
Operation of the dual state hospital- and community-based systems of care has always been a very expensive endeavor. Since the inception of the community system in the 1970s, our vision has been to create a community-based, highly integrated, comprehensive, single system of care. The merger of the two systems into a single, effective, integrated system will alleviate expenses and promote efficiency, which is a compelling reason to continue to move toward the closure of state facilities in this time of tight resources. The resources presently supporting the state hospital system must be restructured to follow individuals as they move into the community. Funding must also be made available to strengthen existing community-based programs, assuring that these programs adequately meet the needs of the additional people who will be transitioning from state hospitals.
Keystone Human Services has extensive experience in supporting individuals as they move into the community from state facilities. The successful closure of Harrisburg State Hospital will benefit the individuals who move into the community – provided that adequate financial and service resources are made available. All individuals moving into the community will require personalized clinical plans, outlining their preferences and defining their support needs.
Keystone has been an active participant in the development of a Regional Service Area Plan, which has become the foundation for the closure of Harrisburg State Hospital. Inherent in the regional plan is an ongoing commitment to provide a responsive system of care, as well as sufficient funding, to assure the continued well-being and security of those individuals who move into the community.
We are dedicated to providing opportunities for people to live as fully participating, contributing members of the community. Each of us shares the responsibility to assure that all members of our society live in an environment of quality and integrity.
Dennis W. Felty
Keystone Human Services
For a detailed history of the community program click here.