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State centers are home to Pennsylvania's most vulnerable - intellectually/developmentally delayed and medically fragile - receiving skilled 24 hour care in a safe and welcoming environment; some staff are 5th generation in their family to work at Polk Center. Polk Center has been part the community since 1897; it is Venango County's largest employer, and has always been an important regional asset. Polk provides a unique and positive environment that receives court-ordered patients and stands ready to offer services to I/DD individuals in the community waiting for appropriate care.
Now associated with A Voice of Reason, feel free to also visit them at
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In mid August 2019 the closure of two of the four remaining state centers in Pennsylvania was announced by Teresa Miller, Secretary of the Department of Human Services. Representing the Wolfe administration she stated reasons being from a need for community inclusion and cost of maintaining the lives of people in the state facilities being unsustainable.
That was the moment that we started to come together. At the first town hall style meeting people that live at the centers pleaded to stay in their home. During the Senate and House committee meetings that followed family members shared their concern for the safety of their loved ones being integrated into communities farther away from family, seperated from life long friends, and being removed from a safe place that they have known all of thier lives.
There have been many unsettling moments along the way. There was a moment it was revealed how the desicion was made to close the centers and no documentation could be provided that there was sufficient meetings and discussion. Proof was lacking about the 'factors' that were considered. The admission of The ARC that they are not sure what kind of training that their providers require was equally disturbing. There was also the admission that it isn't truely community inclusion that they are committed to, but would settle to move them to the other facilities (which are in danger of closing in the future) and private ICFs.
Community inclusion advocates have been set against these facilities, homes with staff that care for people with disabilities just as they do in the community, because of an idea that the money that is saved will go to a waiting list of people in need of services (though there is no evidence that this will happen). The stories of places like Pennhurst have been used to paint these facilities poorly though the environment has completely changed and they represent a home like environment.
We, as a group of family, friends, community members, and staff, have come together to support the choice of people living in the centers to stay surrounded by friends and a community that has grown along with them for a lifetime. We believe that if we all work together we can find a solution that will save their home. We are here to do everything in our power to make sure these facilities remain an option to come home to.