Governor vetoes bill to keep 2 institutions for disabled

18 Feb 2020 | 06:48

    White Haven. (AP) Gov. Tom Wolf followed through Feb. 12 on his threat to veto legislation designed to prevent his administration from closing two state centers for the intellectually disabled that house about 300 people. The bill, Wolf said, would have continued a reliance on institutionalization and did not meet his goals for serving more disabled people through community services, where he said they have better and more integrated lives. The bill emerged after Wolf's announcement in August that he would close White Haven in northeastern Pennsylvania and Polk in northwestern Pennsylvania, continuing a decades-old trend away from institutional care. The bill passed the Republican-controlled Legislature and would have prevented a governor from closing any of Pennsylvania's four remaining state centers for at least five years. The closings were fought by employees and family members of the centers' residents, who also filed a lawsuit in federal court in an effort to block the shutdowns. Employees and relatives say the state centers have been good for its residents, and moving could be traumatic for many residents who have severe disabilities. In community settings, they say, services are delivered by underpaid or poorly trained workers in jobs with high turnover.Wolf's administration, however, had prominent allies, including the Arc of Pennsylvania and Disability Rights Pennsylvania. White Haven and Polk cost about $130 million for about 300 residents. Residents at White Haven and Polk can also move to one of the two other state centers, Selinsgrove and Ebensburg, where about 400 beds are available, Wolf administration officials say.