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Fire leaves 'scary unknown' for Butler Township mental health center

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Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Irene Stacy Mental Health Center executive director Natalie Ross and director of facilities management Ed Tassey walk through the fire damaged administrative wing of the facility Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
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Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Temporary electricity is set up after a Feb. 19th fire damaged the Irene Stacy Mental Health Center.
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Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
A Feb. 19th fire at the Irene Stacy Mental Health Center damaged the administrative wing. Medications, computers and medical supplies were also destroyed.
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Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Irene Stacy Mental Health Center director of facilities management Ed Tassey walks through the fire damaged administrative wing of the facility Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

The Irene Stacy Community Mental Health Center lost supplies, children's books, toys, educational material and office furniture when a fire swept through the building last month.

The center, which administers care to dozens of clients each day, also lost drugs, and there's an unresolved question as to who will pay to replace them, said Executive Director Natalie Ross.

“It's a scary unknown,” she said.

The Feb. 19 fire damaged a portion of the Butler Township building housing its administrative offices and medical wing, making the drugs in the latter unusable.

The center had to destroy four lawn and leaf bags filled with medication, she said.

She could not provide a dollar estimate as to its value.

While some were pharmacy samples, others were paid for by the clients' insurance.

Though the drugs technically belong to the clients, they were kept in the building so that the right dosage could be administered to patients who can't do it for themselves.

Some clients come to the Butler Township health center for their medicine, but center personnel visit many patients at their homes each day to administer medication.

Ross said insurance agents have told the center that because it didn't own the drugs, patients might have to claim the losses on their homeowners' insurance.

Many patients don't carry that insurance, Ross said, and she fears the replacement costs could be high.

“We've asked to have those meds replenished no matter what,” Ross said.

First National Insurance Agency Account Executive Roger Zallon said on Wednesday that adjusters are still processing the claim, so there's no dollar amount of the damage or decisions on the medication.

The Stacy center serves more than 3,000 clients a year, including those who are diagnosed with mental illness; coping with chronic pain and medical conditions; children and the elderly. It operates on a $10 million annual budget.

About 70 to 80 percent is subsidized by county money and reimbursements from Medicare.

“Without those mental health services, the county would be pretty hard-pressed to replace outpatient mental health capacity,” said Leslie Osche, executive director of the United Way of Butler County. “It's important that the community come together, because without these services, we'll have an even bigger problem.”

Some patients have asked for their medical records since the fire, indicating they're going elsewhere for treatment.

“We do know there's going to be a dip in revenue,” Ross said. “We don't know if people are going to come back and see us.”

Butler Township Fire Marshal Larry Christy said on Wednesday that authorities believe a wiring problem sparked the fire.

Though initial estimates placed the damage at $60,000, Christy said the dollar figure “is likely to be much higher” when a final total is reached.

In the days after the fire, the center moved its operations to the nearby Sunnyview Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center.

Operations have since returned to its building.

Ross said that the organization may not be able to simply repair the fire damage.

It might have to bring the building, built in 1968, up to current codes, including wider doorways and updates to the electrical systems.

“At this point, we don't know how much it's going to be and what will need replaced,” Ross said.

The organization is seeking donations because it doesn't believe that insurance will cover the cost of replacing everything.

Donations are tax-deductible and can be made at any NexTier Bank branch, where an account has been set up. Donations can be sent to: The Irene Stacy Fire Fund, 112 Hillvue Drive, Butler, PA 16001.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or [email protected].

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