Allegheny County controller to audit agency that handles emergencies at Western Psych

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Following his office's investigation of the mass shooting last year at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has asked county Controller Chelsa Wagner to review the county's $14 million contract with re:solve Crisis Network, the 24-hour arm of UPMC that handles mental health emergencies.

Mr. Zappala made the request Thursday in a four-page letter to county Executive Rich Fitzgerald and county council, on which Ms. Wagner was copied.

In response, Ms. Wagner will launch an audit, her spokesman said.

"It's a very important issue, and what happened in the ... case should raise some red flags to everybody involved in the process, and it certainly merits a look at the contract," Brad Korinski said.

"We need to make sure the taxpayers are getting everything they should be under that contract. It's a lot of money, and it's a big contract."

On March 8, 2012 mentally ill gunman John Shick walked into the Oakland psychiatric hospital with two handguns. He shot and wounded five Western Psych employees and killed therapist Michael Schaab before being fatally shot by police.

Mobile crisis teams from re:solve had twice visited Shick, 30, to assess him but he refused to comply.

A lawsuit recently filed on behalf of wounded Western Psych receptionist Kathryn Leight, 66, of Shaler and her husband against UPMC and others claims that any number of doctors who treated Shick in the months leading up to the shooting rampage could have -- and should have -- involuntarily committed him to a mental institution.

UPMC has said the complaint "falls far short of the standards required to impose responsibility for his actions on UPMC, its constituent organizations, or any of their dedicated professionals."

Mr. Zappala's interest is in using the value of the county's contract as leverage to ensure that mental health treatment and security issues are up to standards desired by county officials, who control which publicly funded facilities are used.

"We'll look it over," county spokeswoman Amie Downs said.

"We've been working with the DA and his consultants since shortly after the shooting and have been advised by them that our response and our plans for additional improvements are exemplary," UPMC spokesman Paul Wood said.

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Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg.


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