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First Hospital to close, end all outpatient services

First Hospital in Kingston.
Commonwealth Health
Commonwealth Health's First Hospital in Kingston will close this year.

Pennsylvania State Representative Aaron Kauffer lives just a few blocks away from First Hospital in Kingston. He says he was shocked to learn the nearly 40-year-old facility plans to close.

“It's truly devastating to our community, if we aren't able to maintain those services at a time when mental health is so important,” Kauffer said. “We can't afford to be losing these services in northeastern Pennsylvania.”

First Hospital in Kingston announced it will close on October 30 and is not accepting new admissions. The Commonwealth Health facility offers inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services.

According to a statement, the hospital has struggled to maintain staffing levels, especially as “nurses and other caregivers” have left their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials also cited declining admissions caused by an “incident” at the hospital in June, saying as admissions went down, more staff members chose to leave, and it became “very challenging” to recruit new staff.

As of last week, First Hospital had 328 employees and 36 patients staying at the facility.

Officials stated the hospital has enough employees to care for their current patients, and they plan to safely discharge or place patients in new facilities come the closing date.

All outpatient programs offered by First Hospital will also end come October, including the Crisis Response and Recovery Center of NEPA, a 24/7 program at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital offering immediate assessment, brief intensive treatment and referral services for anyone experiencing emotional or psychiatric crises.

Kauffer is particularly concerned about the fate of those outpatient programs. He’s working with Commonwealth Health and other state lawmakers in the hopes of connecting them with another provider who could take over and ensure the programs continue.

“We're working with marketing, Human Services, the Department of Health,” he said. “Making sure that we provide any possible connections that we can…and making sure that we do anything we can to help.”

Commonwealth Health’s website describes First Hospital as Northeastern Pennsylvania’s only private psychiatric hospital.

Sarah Scinto is the local host of Morning Edition on WVIA. She is a Connecticut native and graduate of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, and has previously covered Northeastern Pennsylvania for The Scranton Times-Tribune, The Citizens’ Voice and Greater Pittston Progress.

You can email Sarah at sarahscinto@wvia.org