House Health Committee Votes to Keep Polk, White Haven State Centers Open

| December 18, 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. (EYT) – The Pennsylvania House Health Committee on Tuesday voted to keep both Polk and White Haven State Centers open, despite Governor Tom Wolf’s plans to close the facilities.

The bill will be considered by the full House next.

PA State Representative R. Lee James (R-Venango) lauded the vote.

“Like so many people in the district, I was appalled at the governor’s request,” James said. “Especially since he had not even visited Polk to see the center and the incredible care its residents receive each day.”

The intermediate care facilities provides nursing and supportive care to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The house bill is a companion measure to one already passed in the state senate.

What The Bill Does:

– States that no state center shall close until all Medicaid waiver-eligible individuals in Pennsylvania are authorized to begin receiving home and community-based services furnished under a waiver granted pursuant to section 1915(c)(1) of the Social Security Act (49 Stat. 620, 42 U.S.C. § 1396n(c)(1)).

– States that when all Medicaid waiver-eligible individuals have received authorization under subsection (a), the department shall transmit notice of that fact to the Legislative Reference Bureau for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

– Upon publication of the notice, the Task Force on the Closure of State Centers is established within the department. Within sixty days of publication of the notice, the secretary shall convene an initial meeting of the task force.

See full bill here.

James said that even with this victory, the fight is far from over.

“Today (Tuesday, December 17) was successful,” James said. “But. the fight is not over. We must continue to work together for each and every resident of Polk and White Haven.”

Polk Center currently serves 194 residents and employs around 700 individuals making it the largest employer in Venango County.

White Haven in Luzerne County has 112 residents at its facility.

The committee vote was close with the measure passing on a vote of 13-12. All 13 votes in favor of keeping the centers open came from Republicans. Two Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against the measure.

“While I remain optimistic that my colleagues will support the bill so it can be sent to the governor for review, I am concerned that he will veto it in favor of his own agenda rather than act in accordance with the will of the people,” James said.

In August, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services said both Polk State Center and White Haven State Center would close by 2022. See story.

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