PA Announces Three-Year Plan to Close Two State Centers

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS), which includes the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) announced plans to close both the Polk State Center and the White Haven State Center with the closure process expecting to take about three years.

 According to a recent news release, “The closures reflect the Wolf Administration’s work to serve more people in the community, reduce reliance on institutional care, and improve access to home- and community-based services so every Pennsylvanian can live an everyday life.”

 “Consistent with national trends, Pennsylvania has steadily closed most of its state centers since the 1960s when best practices turned toward community-based settings and away from institutions. Fifty years ago, in Pennsylvania, DHS served more than 13,000 people with intellectual disabilities in state-operated facilities. Twenty years ago, state centers served 3,000 individuals. Today, fewer than 720 individuals receive care in a state center, a decrease of more than 70 percent since 1999.”

 “This is an incredible moment in our history in Pennsylvania,” said DHS Sec. Teresa Miller. “Over the past 120 years, thousands of Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities lived some or all their lives in Polk and White Haven state centers. We recognize their history and commend the work that center staff have done to support these individuals and their families, but we also must commit to a future that truly includes individuals with disabilities and offers them an everyday life as fully integrated members of our communities.”

“Having an intellectual disability does not mean a person is incapable of making decisions, contributing to their community, or exploring lifelong learning opportunities. Community-based settings honor the inherent value of every person and empower individuals to choose the direction of their own lives.”

 “No resident will leave Polk or White Haven without a destination of their choosing and a fully developed plan that meets their physical, emotional, social and mental health needs,” said Sec. Miller. “We will not rush this process. We are committed to working closely with residents, families, and employees to ensure a smooth, safe transition.”