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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: March 23, 2017 03:32 PM
From: Representative Kerry A. Benninghoff
To: All House members
Subject: Closure of State Institutions for Intellectual Disability
In January, Governor Wolf’s administration announced their intention to close the Hamburg State Institution for individuals with intellectual disability. The individuals residing there will be transitioned into home and community based supports. Hamburg is one of five remaining state institutions for intellectual disability. Governor Wolf and Secretary Dallas took a positive step yesterday with this announcement, but it is imperative that we, as a General Assembly, ensure it is only the first step. It is also imperative that we ensure any closures or transitions are transparent and planned for.

In announcing the closure of the Hamburg State Center, Secretary Dallas said it “will enable the residents to live in the community when possible. Research shows that community settings result in improved quality of life in areas such as opportunities for integration and social participation, participation in employment, opportunities for choice-making and self-determination, contact with friends and relatives, adaptive behavior, and other indicators of quality of life.” There is no doubt in my mind that the community based system of supports is a superior alternative to institutional settings. So why is Pennsylvania only planning to close one of the five state centers?

I intend to introduce legislation that will require Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services to prepare and execute a plan, substantially similar to an Olmstead Plan, to close all remaining state institutions for intellectual disability by 2023. My legislation will require DHS to focus on the individuals being supported. Their desires and goals must be a guiding principle moving forward as should the input of their families. These types of transitions are not and will not be easy, but it is for the greater good. Furthermore, my legislation will allow for a public review and comment on any planned closures. Under current law, such public review and comment is not required.

This legislation also presents an often-elusive opportunity to deliver a critical human services win while at the same time delivering a taxpayer win. Based on information from Governor Wolf’s proposed 2017-18 budget, the average cost to support an individual with intellectual disability in a state institution is more than $350,000 per person per year. In some institutions, that figure is as high as $450,000. Meanwhile, the cost to support an individual in a community setting is often more than 50% less than in an institutional setting. The transition my legislation will require will ultimately allow Pennsylvania to more effectively and efficiently spend taxpayer dollars in the intellectual disability/autism system.

This legislation will require any savings generated as a result of this transition to remain in the ID/A system to address the workforce crisis within the system and to continue to address Pennsylvania’s waiting list for services. It will also allow for an expedited disposition of the institutional properties once they are surplussed.

There has been talk in Harrisburg about restructuring and re-imagining government. It is a conversation in which I am glad to be involved. It is important we move beyond the words and embrace the opportunities. My legislation does that. If you have any questions about the legislation, please contact my office 717-783-1918.

Thank you for your consideration!

Introduced as HB1650