Pennsylvania Hospital Closures

While in some states such as Virginia and Oregon state hospitals are being rebuild, if on a smaller scale than previously, Pennsylvania is actually closing state hospitals. Allentown State Hospital is the latest of its hospitals to get the axe.


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.

I don’t think anybody could say it better than a state resident and ex-patient.

“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!”

State hospital care is very costly. It is more cost effective to take care of people in the community.

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.

Other states in the union need to perk up their ears, and pay attention to what’s going on in states like Pennsylvania where deinstitutionalization is actually becoming a reality. Part and parcel of this deinstitutionalization is community integration, that is, housing and jobs rather than jails and tent cities.