Governor floats plan to attack lead, asbestos in schools

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a news conference in his Capitol offices as he unveils a $1.1 billion package intended to help eliminate lead and asbestos contamination in Pennsylvania's schools, homes, day care facilities and public water systems, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020 in Harrisburg, Pa. Looking on are Democratic state lawmakers and officials from teachers' unions.

HARRISBURG — Governor Tom Wolf on Wednesday vetoed a senate bill which would have placed a moratorium on the closing of any state center. 

Wolf announced his veto of Senate Bill 906, which was introduced after the Department of Human Services (DHS) announced the closing of two of the remaining four state centers – Polk, in Venango County, and White Haven, in Luzerne County. The state center in Selinsgrove was not scheduled to be impacted by the announced closures. 

The Office of Developmental Programs operates the four intermediate care residential facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The bill would have blocked the closure of any state center for at least five years and put the decision to close any state center in the hands of the task force created by the bill.

“All people deserve the opportunity to live among their family and peers in integrated, supportive homes. Quality home and community-based care should be the priority for the individuals we serve," Wolf said in a release. “Community care results in better outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities should be offered an everyday life as fully integrated members of our communities. My goal is to serve more individuals in the community, reduce reliance on institutional care, and improve access to home and community-based services.

“This legislation does not promote this investment and transition to community-based care for individuals with a disability. Instead, this legislation continues the reliance on institutionalization and is a barrier to community living."

In August, state officials announced the projected closing of state of Polk and White Haven state centers. Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said then there were no plans to close the final two state centers — in Ebensburg, Cambria County and Selinsgrove, Snyder County — but the state will be monitoring the population levels at those facilities while determining their future.

The state plans to close Polk and White Haven by 2022. 

“As previously announced, my administration will continue to work with residents, their families and the employees of the state centers to provide a smooth and safe transition over the next few years," Wolf said in a statement Wednesday. "No resident will leave these state-operated centers without a destination of the resident’s and the family’s choosing, including the option to remain in a state center setting. Further, no resident will leave without a fully developed individualized plan for the physical, emotional, developmental, social and mental health needs of the resident."

Recommended for you