Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Court shuts down West Philly mental health facility

For much of the past three years, at least seven people with mental-health problems called a dirty, three-story West Philadelphia rowhouse "home."

Court shuts down West Philly mental health facility

For much of the past three years, at least seven people with mental-health problems called a dirty, three-story West Philadelphia rowhouse “home.”
The property -- the Parks Personal Care Home on 59th Street near Master -- was supposed to provide comfort, medicine and round-the-clock care.
Instead, the residents were faced with little supervision, squalid living conditions and the added insult of having owner Sakina Parks allegedly withhold their Social Security money, according to the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
This week, the allegedly mistreated tenants caught a break.
On Thursday, the Court of Common Pleas issued an order to shut down the home and prevent Parks — who does not have a current license to operate a personal-care facility — from running any other properties in the state.
Five of the seven residents were moved yesterday to other local mental-health facilities, said Lisa Faulkner, who heads We C.A.R.E., an advocacy project run by the Mental Health Association. A legal loophole allowed two residents to continue living in Parks’ property.
“Certainly, the situation they’re in now is 100 percent better than where they were,” said Faulkner, who investigated complaints about Parks’ West Philly property for the past three years.
Faulkner said tempers ran high yesterday morning when she arrived at the house along with police, firefighters and members of the Department of Public Welfare.
“It was very, very chaotic,” Faulkner said. “She [Parks] was screaming in people’s faces. The main thing is, we got them out of there.”
The residents had been referred to Parks’ personal-care home from a variety of sources — hospitals, other mental-health agencies, even the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Parks operated as a representative payee, meaning the state deposited the residents’ Social Security checks into an account, and Parks was then supposed to distribute the funds to them, Faulkner said.
“She wasn’t giving them their money,” Faulkner said. “One resident told me she made him do chores to get his money.”
Parks could not be reached for comment last night.
Fire Department officials determined the house had heat and working smoke alarms. “But that was about it,” Faulkner said.
“It’s not a small house, but it’s not very clean. I’ve seen other personal-care homes that were not palaces, but the people loved it because they were treated with dignity. That was not the case here.”
Some residents complained of not being fed breakfast, while others noted that they were forced to sit on a couch under a picture of a doghouse if they misbehaved, Faulkner said.
“These are people with mental-health diagnoses who need help with daily living,” Faulkner said.
In court, the Department of Public Welfare reported that Parks hadn’t had an updated license to operate a roominghouse or a personal-care facility since 2003, the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania noted in a press release.

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