Bill to Halt Polk Closure Passes House Committee

| October 23, 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. (EYT) – A bill that could put a hold on the closure of Polk and White Haven state centers passed the House Health Committee today.

According to a representative for state Rep. R. Lee James’s office, a bill seeking to put a hold on the closures of the centers passed the House Health Committee in a 15-9 vote this morning.

House Bill 1918 was introduced by state Rep. Gerald Mullery (D-Luzerne) to enact a moratorium on the closing of both White Haven and Polk state centers “until Pennsylvania is better prepared to respond to the impending fallout,” according to a release from Rep. Mullery. It would stop the closures until care is found for the 13,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities who are currently on a state waiting list.

The bill was introduced in early October with the bipartisan support of co-prime sponsors Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) and Rep. R. Lee James (R-Venango/Butler).

The bill will now go on to the entire state House for consideration.

The closure of the intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities was announced by Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller on August 14.

In continued defense of residents at the facilities, Rep. James recently voiced his concerns about the governor’s mandated closure of the state centers again at a hearing held by the House Health and Human Services committees, a hearing that Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller did not attend, and sent Kristin Ahrens, deputy secretary for DHS’s Office of Developmental Programs, to attend in her absence.

At that hearing, Ahrens said: “(DHS/ODP’s goal) is to provide services and supports so that all of the individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism can enjoy everyday lives in their communities.”

“During the hearing, Ms. Ahren’s testimony, and that of others who fared well during the Hamburg closure, highlighted the personal growth that Hamburg residents enjoyed after moving to other care facilities,” James said.

“There will be some success stories, but people currently living at Polk and White Haven require different levels of care. Those with greater needs are the ones unlikely to thrive in a different environment that lacks the stability provided by caregivers who help for years and often decades.”

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