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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: June 3, 2019 10:00 AM
From: Representative Kerry A. Benninghoff
To: All House members
Subject: Closing with Compassion: State Institutions for Intellectual Disabilities
Two years ago, with no more than the swipe of his pen, Governor Wolf announced his intention to close the Hamburg State Institution for individuals with intellectual disabilities. This decision was made without public hearings, without input from the legislature and without warning to the families or the individuals residing at Hamburg. With Hamburg now officially closed, the four remaining state institutions face similar outcomes.

Advocates for individuals with intellectual disabilities agree that home- and community-based supports and programs are far superior to state-run institutions, even for the most severe cases. However, it is imperative that we ensure any future closures or transitions are transparent, well planned and include the input of the individuals being supported, as well as their loved ones.

To ensure that any future closures are executed properly, I intend to introduce legislation requiring the Department of Human Services (DHS) to prepare a draft plan for the closure of all remaining state institutions for intellectual disability, of which DHS must make the individuals being supported by our state-run institutions, not budget savings, its primary focus. The legislation will also require DHS to allow for public comment.

Under this legislation, all savings generated as a result of institutional closures will remain in the Intellectual Disabilities system to address the workforce crisis within the system and to continue to address Pennsylvania’s waiting list for services.

The intellectual disabilities community supports these changes, and Pennsylvania needs to modernize care and rise to task. However, several hundred Pennsylvanians facing significant life challenges will be impacted by any changes we make. We must do better than a quick swipe of the pen for them and their families.

If you have any questions about the legislation, please contact my office at 717-783-1918.