Please contact your state representative and ask them to sign on as a cosponsor to Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre) memo that requires Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop a plan to close state centers by January 1, 2023.

Do you know that Pennsylvania has 5 State Centers for Individuals with Intellectual & developmental disabilities? Thankfully there is a plan in place to close the Hamburg State Center, relocating 80 individuals into the community by 2018/19. However that means our state still has 4 State Centers (Like Pennhurst) in existence housing approximately 800+-individuals! This must end! Help those individuals still segregated and isolated in state centers by contacting your legislator and urging them to sign onto Rep. Kerry Benninghoff’s Memo. Below is the link.

Click here for cosponsor memo.

With attention brought to the quality and cost efficiency of community-based supports by the Department of Human Services closure of Hamburg State Center, there is now legislative momentum to close the remaining state centers. This legislation requires the Department to implement person-centered plans for current residents, hold public hearings for stakeholder input, use any of the savings that result from closures for home and community based services, and continue to address the waiting list.

Institutions for people with developmental disabilities have been proven to be costly and ineffective for a number of reasons: 

  • Extensive independent scientific research initiated in Pennsylvania and replicated in fourteen states has found that life in the community for people with developmental disabilities is superior to institutionalization in every characteristic that can be empirically measured. No valid study has found to the contrary.
  • People with the most severe disabilities benefit the greatest from community living, again overwhelmingly supported by research.
  • Institutions are not cost-effective. Currently in Pennsylvania, 22% of funds spent supporting people with developmental disabilities are spent in state centers which house only 4% of the individuals receiving services. In addition, projected capital improvements necessary to keep these antiquated facilities open are cost prohibitive. It is estimated that the cost per individual living in a State Institution can run between $385,00 – $650,000 or more per year! Compared to supporting individuals in the community which may run between $30,000 – $150,000 or less per year!
  • State Centers have been the sites of Countless documented atrocities including physical abuse, extremely poor medical care and suspicious deaths.
  • Research has shown that 90% of family members who oppose their relative leaving an institution change their minds once they have experienced community programs.

Life in the community is not perfect and problems will and do occur. However, it is a tremendous mistake to deny the massive body of evidence in favor of de-institutionalization.  All but one state (Nevada) have reduced institutional population in the past 15 years and continue to do so.  Eleven states have eliminated institutions entirely and three additional states adjoining Pennsylvania (New York, New Jersey and Maryland) have announced plans to close all of their institutions for people with intellectual disabilities.