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Senate Concurs on Amendment to Bill Halting Closure of State Centers, Bill Passes to Governor Wolf

Tuesday, January 28, 2020 @ 12:01 AM

Posted by Aly Delp

polk-centerHARRISBURG, Pa. (EYT) – On Monday, the Senate concurred with changes made to Senate Bill 906, to prevent the closure of any state centers for at least five years.

According to a press release from Senator Scott Hutchinson’s office, the Senate concurred by a vote of 28-21 and the bill will now go to Governor Wolf for his consideration.

“We have done our very best to stop this wrongheaded decision to close Polk and White Haven,” Hutchinson said in the release.

“It is now up to Governor Wolf to decide whether the residents of these centers, our most vulnerable citizens, will continue receiving the quality care that they need and want.”

The bill requires a task force to perform a comprehensive evaluation of the state centers and provide recommendations to the Department of Human Services prior to the closure of any state center. A majority of the task force must approve the plan, and five years must pass after the bill is signed into law.

The Senate passed the original bill on November 19, 2019, and was then amended by the House of Representatives on January 14.

The James amendment that was added eliminates the requirement that every Pennsylvanian who is Medicaid waiver-eligible be moved off the waiting list and into community-based services prior to the closure of any state center.

Because it was amended, it had to be returned to the Senate for their concurrence.

Senate Bill 906 now goes to Governor Wolf’s desk.

Senators John Yudichak (I-14), Michele Brooks (R-50), and Lisa Baker (R-20) joined Hutchinson in making the announcement of the concurrence.

“Senate Bill 906 is a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation that will allow Pennsylvania families to choose the best level of care for their loved ones with intellectual disabilities by prohibiting the closure of White Haven Center and Polk State Center,” said Senator John Yudichak.

“Efforts to close White Haven State Center and Polk State Center by the Department of Human Services are essentially driven by a misguided belief that special interest groups, not families, know what is best for individuals who have called these state centers home for decades. All that we are asking for in Senate Bill 906 is that the choice and interests of every family who cares and loves an individual with intellectual disabilities be valued equally.”

Senate Bill 906 creates the Task Force on the Closure of State Facilities that will analyze and manage the closure of any state center and prevent a closure of those centers for a minimum of five years.

“We remain firmly committed to protecting the most vulnerable of the vulnerable and giving Polk and White Haven residents and their families the voice and the choice they deserve,” said Senator Michele Brooks, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

“Choosing where residents live is truly a life-and- death decision for them, especially in light of the federal Inspector General Report on widespread noncompliance with laws governing abuse, injury and death in group homes. Forcing residents into a community setting that may not be appropriate for their acuity level, or into a state center located even further away from family members, would be a painful unilateral mandate that ignores their wishes and removes them from a home where they feel safe, protected and loved.”

“This is an important step toward recognizing the rights of the residents of the two institutions, their families and the workers, who deserve a more deliberative process in deciding their future. There is a larger principle at stake as well. Legislators have a role in establishing, funding and overseeing state institutions. That involvement does not suddenly terminate because a governor arbitrarily decides to pursue closure,” said Senator Lisa Baker.


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