House Bill 1650 is sponsored by Representative Kerry Benninghoff and calls for the closure of the remaining 4 state care facilities for the intellectually disabled.
However, Benninghoff explains closures are not imminent.
The bill would include the care center in Ebensburg in closures . Benninghoff says that his bill was only in response to the governor’s sudden closure of the facility in Hamburg.
He said, “Just to let the executive office do it whenever they decide, ‘well we need some money and we’re going to close this facility.’ it’s not representative government. I think it should be done through a hearing process.”
He says his bill would allow all of those effected by possible closures to be able to have a say in what happens before any decision would be made.
He explained, “My legislation serves as the catalyst to have an open dialogue that is transparent to everybody and let’s all stakeholders have a say in what’s going on.”
Mary Wills is the president for a support group for families with loved ones in the Ebensburg center. She’s concerned that there are clients that would not be able to adjust to a group home or community based treatment plan.
Wills explained, “I’m afraid some of them will die. We’ve heard in the past where some have moved to the community, did not do well, and in six months, a year later, just form the stress of moving has caused them to pass away.”
Wills has collect 3,000 signatures on a petition to keep the centers open and says there are over 6,000 signatures state-wide. Wills’ sister in law has been treated in two different centers and has been in the community. If it would have worked out in the community, she says they would have kept her out but clients like her sister in law need the treatment provided by the centers.
She detailed, “If this is the service they need, let them come and get stabilized maybe and then maybe move them back out into the community. If this is the service they need, and they can be happy here, why take their home away from them?”
Benninghoff says that this process probably won’t start until next spring and plans to have hearings across the state to get stakeholder input.