Warren State Hospital External Advocates

By its very nature, being hospitalized with a mental illness means having to compromise some of the rights we all take for granted such as the right to associate with anyone of our choosing, the right to come and go as we please, or the right to conduct routine daily tasks when, where, and in the manner we want. It does not, however, mean that we relinquish our direct influence over circumstances and decisions, which are important to the care and treatment we receive when inpatient services are necessary. It is the job of the Warren State Hospital External Advocate to help insure that the basic human rights of persons being served at Warren State Hospital are protected, promoted, and actively pursued.

The Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA (MHA) is pleased and proud to have become the sponsoring organization for this service at Warren State Hospital. Beginning in February 2005 we placed two part-time advocates at Warren State Hospital to fulfill this mandate. They have been regularly involved in planning and oversight meetings, representing the human rights needs and expectations of persons hospitalized at this facility. As employees of the Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA they are truly "external" to the state hospital organization and therefore bring an independence and objectivity to the role. The Advocates have already responded to hundreds of requests from persons on the inpatient units or family members who have had questions about human rights.

If you, as a patient receiving services at Warren State Hospital, or as a family member of such a patient, have questions or concerns about human rights issues related to the care and treatment provided at Warren State Hospital, please contact the External Advocate at 814.726.4294. They will be glad to assist you.

Wondering about how "human rights" and mental health care are connected? The following information will help you

Community Support Planning

Beginning in December 2006 the External Advocates office has been actively engaged in participation in Community Support Planning for those consumers on the Warren State Hospital units who have been hospitalized for more than 2 years. Consumers meet with a team of hospital staff and community members with the specific purpose of developing a plan for return to the community of the consumer's choosing. The focus of the meetings is on the consumers' needs and wishes with regard to the types of living situations and supports that will most likely lead to a safe and successful transition. It is the External Advocate's role to assist in making sure that the consumers' rights and wishes are heard and respected as the primary source for planning.




  1. You have the right to unrestricted and private communication inside and outside this facility including the following rights:
    1. To peaceful assembly and to join with other patients to organize a body of or participate in patient government when patient government has been determined to be feasible by the facility.
    2. To be assisted by any advocate of your choice in the assertion of your rights and to see a lawyer in private at any time.
    3. To make complaints and to have your complaints heard and adjudicated promptly.
    4. To receive visitors of your own choice at reasonable hours unless your treatment team has determined in advance that a visitor would seriously interfere with yours or other's treatment or welfare.
    5. To receive and send unopened letters and to have outgoing letters stamped and mailed. Incoming mail may be examined for good reason in your presence for contraband. Contraband means specific property which entails a threat to your health and welfare or to the hospital community.
    6. To have access to telephones designated for patient use.
  2. You have the right to practice the religion of your choice or to abstain from religious practices.
  3. You have the right to keep or to use personal possessions, unless it has been determined that specific personal property is contraband. The reasons for imposing any limitation and its scope must be clearly defined, recorded and explained to you. You have the right to sell any personal article you make and keep the proceeds from its sale.
  4. You have the right to handle your personal affairs including making contracts, holding a driver's license or professional license, marrying or obtaining a divorce and writing a will.
  5. You have the right to participate in the development and review of your treatment plan.
  6. You have the right to receive treatment in the least restrictive setting within the facility necessary to accomplish the treatment goals.
  7. You have the right to be discharged from the facility as soon as you no longer need care and treatment.
  8. You have the right not to be subjected to any harsh or unusual treatment.
  9. If you have been involuntarily committed in accordance with civil court proceedings, and you are not receiving treatment, and you are not dangerous to yourself or others, and you can survive safely in the community, you have the right to be discharged from the facility.
  10. You have a right to be paid for any work you do which benefits the operation and maintenance of the facility in accordance with existing Federal wage and hour regulations.

Responsibilities of the Warren State Hospital External Advocate

  • Safeguard the human rights of all patients
  • On sight at the hospital and available to patients 5 days per week
  • Key contact at intake and orientation for all new patients
  • Support patients who have individual complaints or issues needing to be addressed
  • Investigate claims of abuse, neglect, or other issues of maltreatment on behalf of and at the request of patients
  • Investigate claims of abuse, neglect, or other issues of maltreatment on behalf of patients
  • Seek to resolve issues between patients and Warren State Hospital Staff
  • Insures patient involvement in policy development or change
  • Available to attend patient treatment team meetings
  • Helps to disseminate information to patients
  • Participate in multiple committees at Warren State Hospital
  • Trained in Recovery Principles and Advanced Directives

Contact Information

For more information regarding your rights, contact: