Plans for psychiatric facility rile North Strabane residents

December 12, 2013
The exterior of Bradley Center in North Strabane Township, where Southwood Psychiatric Hospital hopes to operate a facility for boys with autism spectrum and intellectual developmental disorders. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A Bridgeville-based psychiatric facility is planning a move to North Strabane Township, which has some residents worrying about the clientele that could be housed in their neighborhood.

Southwood Psychiatric Hospital, which has facilities for children and adolescents in Pittsburgh and Bridgeville, has entered a sales agreement to purchase the former Bradley Center on Linden Creek Road.

At a non-voting township supervisors meeting Tuesday, about 50 residents attended to express their concerns about the psychiatric facility, said township manager Frank Siffrinn.

“There was a perception, based upon the (Southwood) website, that … youth that were violent offenders and had drug addiction, alcohol addiction problems, were going to go in there,” Siffrinn said. “I think that was the concern that basically motivated the number of people that were in attendance at the meeting.”

Southwood Psychiatric Hospital lists on its website the services it provides, which include acute inpatient service, an intellectual disability disorders/autism spectrum disorder program, sexually maladaptive behaviors program and family-based mental health services.

Siffrinn said that while some residents expressed concern that violent individuals would be housed in the Southwood facility, township officials would take measures to ensure that would not occur. He said that according to Southwood representatives, the facility in North Strabane would have a “specialized program” to support boys with autism spectrum and intellectual developmental disorders, and individuals with violent backgrounds would not be accepted.

A marketing representative of the hospital could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Siffrinn said township officials expect to meet with Southwood representatives to secure in writing an agreement that the facility would not house violent or substance-addicted individuals. If Southwood agrees, the township could then issue a final occupancy permit. However, if Southwood were to stray from the agreement at a later date, Siffrinn said the township would pull its occupancy permit and notify state regulatory agencies.

The property at 342 Linden Creek Road has housed several psychiatric facilities since 1989, including St. Clair Health Ventures, followed by the Bradley Center in 1999. The township zoning board denied Gateway Rehabilitation Center a non-conforming use continuation of the property in 2009, reasoning that the property had been abandoned for some time.

Gateway and the Bradley Center – which continued to own the property – appealed the decision last year to the Washington County Court of Common Pleas, which ruled that the property had never been abandoned, and the Bradley Center could continue to own the property or market the property for sale or lease with original intended use as a residential treatment facility.

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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