Gov. Wolf Vetoes Bill That Would Halt State Center Closures

Governor Tom Wolf vetoed Senate Bill 906, which would have put a moratorium on the closing of any state center and 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. DHS’s 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.

Gov. Wolf’s SB 906 veto message:

“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.

“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.

“Specifically, this legislation is in response to the recent announcement of the closures of two state-operated centers: Polk State Center and White Haven State Center. These centers are large institutions that are costly to maintain and do not promote community living. As individuals have transitioned to the community, the need for state-operated centers has declined. It should be acknowledged that closures of state centers have always been controversial. The process that the Department of Human Services has followed for state center closure announcements was established to provide for the planful transition of residents and staff and to honor agreements with the employee unions. The department has followed this announcement procedure for the last two decades. The Department fully understands the gravity of the decision to close a center and has extensive procedures in place for such closures.

“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. 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.

“The debate around this closure has been polarizing. I look forward to the parties coming together and shifting our focus to ensuring a thoughtful and successful transition for each resident and each employee.”

Bill Signings

Gov. Wolf also signed the following bills:

House Bill 330, which makes technical corrections to the Property Tax Relief Act.

House Bill 427, which prohibits health plans covering treatments for Stage IV, metastatic cancers from excluding or limiting drugs for patients if the drugs are FDA approved and consistent with best practices.

House Bill 1001, which licenses and regulates donor human milk banks in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 432, which allows Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to have access to the information in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. This change will allow for better identification of potential prescription drug abuse among people enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program.