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Important Hearing MONDAY 9/19- Legislative Review Panel on State Psychiatric Hospitals


Contact: Mary Zdanowicz 703-283-6649 or maryzdz@gmail.com
Laura Tarlowe 908-850-1007 or lauratarlowe@comcast.net

Mary Zdanowicz and others are leaing the fight in NJ to preserve enough psychiatric hospital beds for mentally ill who need them. NJ is pretending they will fund community services so they can justify closing hoepitals. This is a big mistake. When NYS tried this the mentally ill were dumped in substandard nursing homes, where they received no rehab, no supports, and were given unneeded medical procedures so doctors could rack up Medicaid billing.

On Monday, September 19, 2011 at 10:00 AM, the Legislative Review Panel on State Psychiatric Hospitals and Developmental Centers will meet in Committee Room 11 of the State House Annex, Trenton, New Jersey. The panel was created by a joint Senate and Assembly Resolution. http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/ACR/156_R1.PDF

The panel will receive testimony from invited speakers on issues related to the care and costs of providing services to persons with mental illness receiving care in the State psychiatric hospital system. The Co-Chairs of the Panel are Senator Van Drew and Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle. The other members of the Panel include Senators Allen, Codey and Vitale and Assembly members Angelini, Greenwald, Peterson & Tucker.

The hearing is open to the public, but only invited speakers will have an opportunity to testify. Although there won't be an opportunity for others to testify, written testimony can be submitted to Irene M. McCarthy, Lead Counsel Office of Legislative Servicesimccarthy@njleg.org or Michele Leblanc, Senior Research Analyst Office of Legislative Servicesmleblanc@njleg.org.

This is an important opportunity to possibly garner support from the Legislature to persuade the Governor to reverse his decision to close Hagedorn. At a minimum, it is an opportunity to ensure that those with the most severe mental illnesses receive the care they need in a safe and therapeutic environment.

For more info, contact Mary Zdanowicz at maryzdz@gmail.com




Previous Announcemnt

Governor Christie and NJ Legislature: Save Hagedorn Psych Hospital. Do not force mentally ill into streets

By Families of Patients at Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital

Release date: February 9, 2011

Contact: Mary Zdanowicz 703-283-6649 or maryzdz@gmail.com
Laura Tarlowe 908-850-1007 or lauratarlowe@comcast.net

Assembly Human Services Committee Hearing, Thursday, February 10, 2011, 1:00 p.m.
Findings & Recommendations of the State Mental Health Facilities Evaluation Task Force

( Attend Hearings and Call Governor Christie at 609-292-6000)

As families of individuals who are treated and cared for in New Jersey State Psychiatric Hospitals, we applaud Assemblywoman Huttle. The Chairwoman has scheduled a hearing on the Department of Human Services' questionable report on the findings & recommendations of the State Mental Health Facilities Evaluation Task Force. We are confident that the Department of Human Services' plan to close Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital will finally receive a frank and honest evaluation before the Assembly Human Services Committee. Hagedorn, which is the only New Jersey facility that specializes in caring for elderly patients with severe mental illnesses, deserves nothing less.

We don't know whether the Governor is aware, but the Department has made it appear that his agreement to delay a decision about closing Hagedorn pending a fair analysis was a charade. After the Governor halted the plan in June, the Department quietly continued trying to close the hospital by diverting Hagedorn patients to other hospitals. When this was discovered in September, the Assistant Commissioner was called to appear before the Human Services Committee and testified that the closure process would cease.

But as Senator Codey recently observed "the department has been siphoning patients away from Hagedorn for the past year in an attempt to drive up per-patient costs to justify closing the facility." The DHS spokesperson denied the claim but the facts prove the Senator is right. In January 2010, shortly before the closure was announced, 37 patients were admitted to Hagedorn – consistent with the pattern in prior months. Through the year, admissions steadily declined until December 2010 when only 10 patients were admitted. The Department's explanation is that admissions were down at all of the State Psychiatric Hospitals. Yet none of the hospitals came close to Hagedorn's 50% drop in average admissions – the highest was 12%.

So how have they done it? Here's one way. Walt Ludeke testified that last October, when the doctors at Carrier Clinic recommended that his seriously ill wife be transferred to Hagedorn which specializes in the care she needed, "they were told by the Department's Centralized Admissions that she had to go to another state facility. The doctors did not agree. Finally, a waiver was processed and Denise was admitted to Hagedorn - over three weeks later!" This was a month after the Committee heard that the diversion of patients would stop.

If disregarding the Governor's promise doesn't put the Department's credibility in question, the report it produced on the Task Force deliberations and the legitimate concerns expressed in the public hearings certainly does. The report is nothing more than The Department's justification to proceed with closing Hagedorn – a decision that was opposed by a majority of the Task Force Members.

The reason the Department is so determined to close Hagedorn is complicated but extremely noteworthy. The Department needs the Hagedorn funding to meet the obligations in its settlement of a lawsuit known as "Olmstead" which refers to a US Supreme Court case concerning the discharge of patients in state psychiatric hospitals who no longer meet commitment criteria. In New Jersey, "CEPP" is used to refer to such patients. The Department commissioned a study of the barriers to placing CEPP patients in the community, many of whom had been hospitalized for years. The researchers reported that "delays in discharge for residents on CEPP status are considerably complex and extend beyond the lack of availability of housing in the community." Beyond the lack of housing is "the unavailability of supports and services to supervise and manage the psychiatric illnesses and associated medical problems of residents, their medications, treatments, daily hygiene and social, employment and recreational activities." In other words, intensive services and supervision are needed. Yet under the settlement, the Department agreed to adopt the Housing First philosophy in which "rental housing is provided upfront and is not contingent upon the completion of treatment." While it may be just what some consumers need, it's a housing program - not a treatment program.
Further still, the Department agreed to create nearly every kind of community placement except 24/7 group home care – the kind of care so many long-term CEPP patients need. Laura Tarlowe, whose older brother has suffered from mental illness for 50 years "is concerned that Olmstead cannot truly accomplish its original intention until a more comprehensive community living support is established. I believe that a suitable placement for my brother with true 24/7 monitoring does not currently exist outside of the hospital setting." The care that Laura's brother needs is not on the Department's agenda – neither in the community nor at Hagedorn.

This is true for too many families. Linda Fahmie's sister was struck with mental illness when she was 18 years old - she is now 48. She is in Greystone Psychiatric Hospital but Linda has learned that "Greystone, like the other hospitals, is under pressure to discharge patients. In spite of the fact that she and our family continue to tell the treatment team that she will not be safe if released, she remains on their discharge list and is treated as someone who is simply resistant to discharge. Olmstead addresses the issue of making community-based living environments available for individuals who are able to live with some level of independence. However, it fails to attend to the needs of patients who have demonstrated that they need 24/7 care, as my sister who has severe impulse control problems, bipolar disorder, and schizoaffective disorder."

The Department asserts that Hagedorn should be closed because there are too many empty psychiatric beds in the state. While the tactics that are being employed to keep those beds empty is successful, it is evident that it is putting tremendous pressure on the rest of the system. For example, the New Jersey Hospital Association reported in July that emergency rooms are being overcrowded with psychiatric patients. While the Department minimizes the problem in the Task Force report and claims that Olmstead will solve the problem, the Department submitted an application for funding to the federal government in September that acknowledged that the patients in emergency rooms "tend to be more resource intensive and experience longer stays most often due to waiting for an available bed in a psychiatric unit or hospital." It appears that the Department's assessment of bed needs depends on the source of money.

Mary Zdanowicz, whose sister is a patient at Hagedorn, also has a brother with schizophrenia in Massachusetts, a state the Department lauds for recently closing a state hospital. "My brother just spent 7 days in an emergency room near Boston waiting for a bed – that's what New Jersey can expect if Hagedorn is closed. Why are emergency rooms holding these patients at all if there are so many empty beds in state psychiatric hospitals?"

The real answer is - there really aren't enough beds. The Department just makes it look that way by erecting barriers to admission to the state hospitals as Walt Ludeke learned when he tried to get his wife into Hagedorn, or by discharging patients who aren't ready which Linda Fahmie and her family have learned.

Laura Tarlowe "had high hopes for the Task Force when it was formed, and my expectations were justified in its overwhelming support for keeping Hagedorn open. As my brother's guardian, I know the difficulty in treating such individuals as well as the limitations of the public mental health system. Fortunately, Hagedorn has provided him with a safe environment and me with some peace of mind."

Our family members are safe at Hagedorn - the staff and culture of caring are extraordinary. Mary Zdanowicz has too much experience with psychiatric hospitals. She says that "in caring for two siblings with schizophrenia who have been ill for more than 30 years, I can attest to the fact that Hagedorn is by far the best hospital I have ever seen."

It would be a travesty to close Hagedorn. We can only hope that the Committee's hearing on Thursday reveals the truth – the Governor should not accept the Department's dreadful recommendation. He must keep Hagedorn open

Call Governor Christie at 609-292-6000

The hearing is in the State House Annex in Trenton, NJ
Committee Room 16, 4th Floor
Here's a link:


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