Pennsylvania human service officials announced Wednesday they will close one of five remaining state centers for the intellectually disabled, a move they say will save money and provide care for people in their communities, rather than an institutional setting.
The 154-acre Hamburg State Center is in Berks County, 17 miles north of Reading.
The campus-like facility has 39 buildings on the grounds. It is home to approximately 80 residents and will close over a period of 18 to 24 months, officials said.
Such centers were once the primary home for people with intellectual disabilities, but their population has declined in recent decades due to their high cost to operate and the desire to serve people in more community-based settings.
"We can serve folks at a higher level" outside of an institution, Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas said.
Advocates who have pushed for the centers to be closed said they were pleased.
"The closure announcement today is the result of decades of movement away from institutional living in Pennsylvania. The Americans with Disabilities Act sought to end the isolation and segregation of persons with disabilities. Court decisions have affirmed the right to move and live in the community. For decades, our Commonwealth has demonstrated that state operated institutions can close and individuals can be moved to the community safely," said a statement from Peri Jude Radecic, CEO of Disability Rights Pennsylvania.
"No person with an intellectual disability should have to live in an institution. People living there today will now have the opportunity to move into homes in one of Pennsylvania's communities where they will enjoy things that we all take for granted,” said Nancy Murray President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh at ACHIEVA. “They will be able to reach into a refrigerator for their favorite food when they want to, go to sleep and wake up when they want and not when told when to do so, and have their own bedroom and not have to share space with many others."
However, Ms. Murray added, there are still thousands of people in Pennsylvania with intellectual disabilities and autism who are waiting for community-based services, due to a lack of of funding.
Pennsylvania is facing a sizable budget deficit and state officials recently announced they plan to close two prisons.
Kate Giammarise: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.