News Articles on LifeCare Hospital

Name of Facility: LifeCare Hospital

Location: Pittsburgh, PA, USA


Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Patient accuses Pittsburgh hospital employee of rape, sexual assault,” October 2018: “According to the criminal complaint, a former female patient of the hospital accused Adesile Solawon, 56, of repeatedly forcing her to have sex with him.”

Fairmount Behavioral Health

Name of Facility: Fairmount Behavioral Health

Location of Facility (City, State/Province, Country): Philadelphia, PA, USA

Number of Stars: 1.5

Description of Experience: I was voluntarily admitted for suicidality. The schedule lists group therapy multiple times a day but we only had actual therapy 3-4 times during my 8-day stay. Half of those times, therapy revolved around the 12-step addiction recovery model, which wasn’t helpful to me and the other patients without a history of addiction. (This was because the therapists were borrowed from the dual diagnosis unit and didn’t adapt their sessions.)

Almost every day a ‘therapy’ session would be held where a psych tech would monologue for 45-75min about what he thought about life. Once I left because he was bemoaning that spanking children was no longer ‘pc’ and insisting that more spanking would improve mental health. Physically harming children is a trigger for me, but I was told by another tech that I couldn’t leave the session. On other occasions the monologue was religious Christian in nature.

They have 2-person rooms divided by gender but the unit is coed. When a male patient verbally sexually harassed me nothing was done about it. Homophobic statements were made to me and a young gay man on the unit, especially after my partner visited. The rooms were okay – you can’t close the door, which is to be expected, and the bathroom was sectioned off by a curtain that ended a few inches below my knees.

I arrived with only the clothes I was wearing, and I was given a wrap-around gown with a loop so it didn’t have ties (no laces or strings on the unit) and I never could figure out how to get it on, so I stayed in those clothes for another day until my partner could bring me more (visiting hours were 3 times a week). Underwire bras were also banned from the unit, and since I need an underwire for adequate support I was frequently in pain.

I spoke to a doctor twice, the day after the night I was admitted and the day before I was discharged. I begged to see the doctor sooner because the new medication was helping and I wanted to leave, but he was rarely on the unit. The medication change was helpful though and I’m still taking that med. The cafeteria staff were also flexible in adapting to my dietary needs.

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): Inpatient

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: Lesbian Jewish woman

Year(s) Your Experience(s) Occurred (i.e. 2015): 2017

UPMC Altoona

Name of Facility: UPMC Altoona

Location of Facility (City, State/Province, Country): Altoona, Pennsylvania, United States

Number of Stars: 3

Description of Experience: I’ve been voluntarily admitted here once and involuntarily committed three times. The intake process usually takes several hours, and the ER receptionist oftentimes doesn’t treat your situation like an actual emergency, so you can end up sitting in the waiting room for quite a while. After having a urine sample and blood samples taken I always had to wait around in a small room that had nothing in it but a TV, a crappy plastic chair, and a surveillance camera. The crisis worker always takes forever to arrive. One time I went in for having suicidal thoughts but by the time she got there the feeling had completely passed and I realized I never actually had any intention of killing myself. She had me involuntarily committed anyway and I spent the next five days in there feeling perfectly fine aside from having my freedom taken away and I haven’t had suicidal thoughts since.

If you’re put on the unit late at night you don’t get to eat a meal, even if you were just in the ER for five hours. You might get something left over from snack time, but that’s it, and breakfast isn’t until 7:30the next morning. The food is hit-or-miss. The selection is good, but the quality is inconsistent. I was impressed with the mashed potatoes and gravy, the turkey, and with the chicken noodle soup. The iced tea is good too. They set out snacks in the activity rooms at 8 p.m. and they just consist of crackers, those gross peanut butter sandwich cookies that no one ever actually eats, and little ice cream and sherbet cups. My mom was allowed to bring me candy (Skittles and Peeps), but it had to be given to nurses, not directly to me, and it was locked up during the day and only allowed out during snack time. The activity rooms are locked up at 11:00, so if you have insomnia expect to experience extra boredom after that.

You’ll get like an hour in the evening after dinner to have visitors, but visitation has to happen in the activity rooms and guests have to be checked with a metal detector paddle before they’ll be allowed in. They can’t bring cell phones in. The only guests allowed are ones you put on your list.

Every morning a nurse will wake you up ridiculously early to take your blood pressure. Your days will be pretty structured, but free time is scheduled in. There are several groups held every day, but they’re all on pretty general topics like medication management, art therapy, etc. It’s not like serious, deep therapy because patients are in and out all the time and have widely varying diagnoses and reasons for being there. If you don’t attend groups they put in your file that you’re not complying with treatment and then they will keep you in there longer (they usually do the same thing if you refuse to take medication). If I remember correctly, the only group that is optional is the spirituality one, which is just a Christian pastor coming in and trying to convert people, which doesn’t seem completely ethical to me.

There are two activity rooms (a.k.a. day rooms), one on each end of the unit. That’s where groups and meals are held. They have some games, xeroxed coloring book pages with crayons and markers, puzzles that pretty much all have at least one missing piece, and a bunch of mostly bland reading material. They also each have a TV in them, and usually in the evenings they show a movie.

I liked all of the staff except the tall dude with the mustache who was ultra Christian and spent the majority of his time trying to convert people to his particular form of the religion. He was a mental health worker, not a guest preacher or anything. It was very inappropriate and obnoxious. I don’t think he works there anymore though because I didn’t see him at all during my last stay. The fact that he was there for a good while in the first place really rubs me the wrong way though.

You’ll have one brief visit with a psychiatrist usually every weekday. There were three different ones and they were all nice and had insightful things to say.

There are mental health workers and nurses who are available to talk to one-on-one throughout the day, and they’re generally all very nice, but in my experience the staff who work after 11 p.m. aren’t interested in talking much because they’re busy monitoring the unit with less help on hand. Usually you’ll meet with a social worker to plan outpatient treatment and arrange any other sort of accommodations that you’ll need when you get out. Like if you’re struggling with addiction they’ll help transfer you to rehab, if you’re poor and need health insurance they’ll help you apply for Medicaid, etc. You can choose to include family in this meeting. You’ll also meet with the occupational therapy nurse, who is very kind-hearted and positive, but in my experience the one-on-one meetings with her are useless. Her groups are much more productive. The custodians were all very polite and pleasant and they do a great job of keeping the unit clean.

It felt pretty safe in there overall. It was never really chaotic or violent when I was there. I never saw staff act aggressively toward patients, even when patients were very agitated or aggressive themselves. The one complaint I have as far as staff respecting patients’ bodily autonomy was that they force you to give blood samples if you refused to in the ER (which I did when I was experiencing paranoid psychosis because “we need to take your blood” sounded horrifying to me at the time and I already hated needles on top of that). If you refuse in the ER they’ll let you refuse one more time after that. Then they force you. Staff will surround you and hold you during this. I remember crying, screaming, and shaking in terror while clinging to one of the nurses when it happened to me.

You’re not allowed to bring in cell phones or any other electronic devices. No regular writing utensils and no spiral-bound notebooks are permitted, but stubby pencils that have no eraser on them are fine. They have boxes of those in the activity rooms too. Tampons have to be locked up in the nurses’ station and when you need one you have to wait around until a nurse is available to give you one. No clothing with strings is allowed (so no shoestrings, drawstrings, etc.).

If you don’t have any clothes with you they’ll provide pants with not-always-great elastic waistbands, brand-new socks, and gowns (they’ll let you wear two, a front one and a back one so your back and butt don’t ever hang out). Some of the gowns have stains on them. They let you keep the socks. They’ll also give you deodorant, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and mouthwash, all of which you get to take with you when you leave. Those things get locked up in the shower rooms and you’re only allowed to have them during shower time and only in the shower rooms. Women who aren’t on suicide watch get to use razors, and they let suicidal women shave too but generally only with supervision. Pretty standard stuff. You’re not allowed to have jewelry and during one of my stays they made me take out my small ear gauges which then grew shut while I was in there.

Patient rooms are plain and cannot be locked, but they’re decent-sized and you get one all to yourself. You’re not allowed to have your door completely closed, and staff comes around regularly to check on you. I think it’s done every 15 minutes. You share a bathroom with the person whose room is next to yours. Thankfully you’re allowed to close the bathroom doors, but they don’t lock, so that’s a bit unnerving. The bathroom mirrors are just a big sheet of metal riveted to the wall and they kind of suck. You’re not allowed to enter the rooms of other patients.

Altoona doesn’t have an adolescent ward so if the nearest one (at Conemaugh Memorial in Johnstown) is full the kids end up in the Altoona adult ward. You’re not really supposed to talk to the kids but people do it anyway and staff often doesn’t care. During one of my stays a 23-year-old male patient started dating a 16-year-old female patient, and they regularly and loudly discussed their intentions to do drugs and get drunk together upon release. They were never hushed or separated, and they sneaked into one of their bathrooms to make out on at least one occasion.

The temperature in the place is usually cold, especially at night, so if you have a chance to pack some clothes or have someone bring some in for you a sweatshirt, hoodie, and/or longsleeved undershirts are a good idea. You should also ask for at least one extra blanket for in your room at night because they’re very thin. Blankets aren’t allowed outside of patient rooms. Requesting an extra pillow is a good idea if you want to be propped up a little better to read comfortably while lying down. You’re allowed to take books into your room. The beds are firm but not overly so.

All in all I would say my experience with this place isn’t really too bad considering how underfunded the hospital is overall. Statistically it’s one of the worst hospitals in the country (Seriously. Google it.) so I was expecting the ward to be terrible. It’s mostly just boring, but the friendliness of the staff helped make up for a lot of the drawbacks. It’s not the worst ward in the area. I would definitely recommend it before I would the ones in Somerset, Johnstown, or Huntingdon.

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): inpatient

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: I’m a butch lesbian and practice a non-Christian minority religion.

Year(s) Your Experience(s) Occurred (i.e. 2015): 2013, 2014, 2016

J.C. Blair Hospital

Name of Hospital: J.C. Blair Hospital

City, State/Province, Country: Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, USA

Number of Stars: 1

Comment: I was involuntarily institutionalized during college for self-injury. No one notified my parents or friends for the first 24 hours. The college was notified at the time.

Clothing was completely confiscated and had to be “earned” back by answering “correctly” on daily psych evals – basically if you described how you were feeling using “positive” words like “hopeful” or “self-confident” you could get clothing back but if you said “sad” or “stressed” you had to stay in a hospital gown.

There were no activities other than daily group therapy sessions. I did all the homework I’d brought from school in the first day. The therapist was unavailable so all therapy sessions were conducted by nurses. A nurse told me that the way to “get over” my eating disorder was to “eat normally” and “not get fat”. Staff did not notice that I subsequently got other patients to eat my meals.

Group therapy was the only type of therapy in spite of the fact that everyone on the ward had drastically different reasons for being there (PTSD, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, anger management, etc). This made it incredibly difficult to address specific issues or complaints.

We were not allowed to be unobservable unless in the shower or bathroom, meaning we had to sleep with the doors of our rooms open. We were not allowed to go into each other’s rooms to talk. All talking had to be done in the common areas.

I quickly realize the way to get out was to lie and tell staff I was doing well and give consistently “positive” answers on evals. After five days I told staff I thought I could be discharged. They said okay. I was given my personal belongings and told to leave. I walked out of the hospital by myself and back to college, because no arrangements were made for transportation or follow-up. I then signed up for counselling through the college because none of my actual mental health needs had been addressed.

I remain terrified of inpatient programs and do not think I could ever willingly go inpatient ever again.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Inpatient

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: Queer woman

Year(s) : 2008

Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital

Name of Hospital: Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital

City, State/Province, Country: Lehighton, PA, United States

Number of Stars: 1

Comment: Gnaden Huetten was my first experience with adult psychiatric hospitalization and I remember nothing good about it. From the first day when I witnessed a possibly autistic patient get literally thrown into the ‘quiet room’ after she charged towards me on all fours, to the day they discharged me after drastically changing my medication, ignoring my wishes to stay longer because I did not feel okay on them.

During my stay there I witnessed the nurses and techs mistreating many of the patients by either ignoring them or just throwing them in their rooms when they were misbehaving. One tech in particular behaved incredibly inappropriately by flirting with all the female patients and even talking to some of them about going for drinks after they were discharged. I don’t remember many of the groups because they were entirely forgettable and pointless. What I remember most was sitting in the tv room with a bunch of other patients and hanging out almost completely unsupervised for most of the day.

The doctor I saw’s main focus was over medicating me and I was hardly ever able to get a word in for myself. She ended up taking me off strong doses of medication I had been on for over a year while simultaneously starting me on three new medications I had never heard of. She did this in two days, gave me one day to get used to them, and then I was discharged. A day after coming home I began hallucinating and my mental health declined drastically. I was hospitalized again two days later.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Inpatient

Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center

Name of Hospital: Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center

City, State/Province, Country: Johnstown, PA, USA

Number of Stars: 2

Comment: I went to the ER at the urging of friends to get treatment for minor self harm injuries. They sent a social woker to talk to me, who did not inform me of Pennsylvania’s involuntary commitment laws. I admitted to having recently been suicidal. The doctor at least gave me a choice of signing myself in, but it was still very much against my will.

All of the psych ward staff were profoundly disrespectful of my gender identity, calling me “she” and keeping me out of the men’s social areas. We were not allowed pens or stuffed animals. The staff showed extremely low empathy to patient’s problems. One nurse told a patient to his face that it was his fault that he was going to lose his job for missing work while being locked up because he had chosen to overdose. Positives were being mostly left alone and having a (relatively) easy time ordering the food I wanted to eat.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): inpatient

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: white, trans male, bi

Geisinger CMC

Name of Hospital: Geisinger CMC

City, State/Province, Country: Scranton, PA, USA

Number of Stars: 4.5

Comment: I’ve been admitted here several times. The staff are kind and respectful. You have a contact person for every shift who will touch base with you and whom you can consult concerning how your feeling or any problems you might have. You see a doctor everyday so they are always on top of any med change you may be going through. There’s an art therapy room available everyday. There are also groups. There is the day room which has a TV, tables and chairs, vending machines and games. You also eat in this room. The food is good and you can order extra of anything. There’s a group room with a TV in it and a music room. The music is controlled from the nurses station.

The hospital works with the Scranton Counseling Center which is where the doctors are from. Most people will follow up through the center in which staff makes all the arrangements. It’s a great hospital the only downsides are there is no where to go outside because you are on the 7th floor of a hospital and no outside food or drink. Also no phones, iPods or computers. 

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Inpatient