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Harrisburg State Hospital to Close
January 4, 2005

On December 23, 2004 the Harrisburg Patriot News reported that Governor Ed Rendell planned to close Harrisburg State Hospital and a mental retardation center in Altoona by the end of 2005. A formal announcement by the administration is expected January 6. Harrisburg State Hospital employs 539 and provides services for about 260 persons. An estimated 135 persons will be moved to community settings to receive services, while the remaining 125 will be moved to either of the state hospitals at Danville, Montour county or Wernersville, Berks county. While advocates laud the potential of the closure for the advancement of community-based services, they are concerned that the closure process be carried out so that the money saved follows the person into the community. Pennsylvania has closed eleven state hospitals over the past 25 years, so advocates are confident that it has expertise in the process. They are, however, concerned that budgetary constraints may impact the quality of the transition. Timing and resources are critical to development of the necessary community infrastructure as a number of people are placed in community settings. Area legislators, local government officials, and service providers are also concerned about funding for the additional services that will be needed.

Area legislators and local government officials are very concerned about job loss. Some current employees will continue to work in state government, while others will lose their jobs. Senator-elect Patricia Vance and Senator Jeffrey Piccola convened a meeting of legislators, county commissioners, and mental health service providers at which a decision was made to request a delay in the public hearing on the hospital closure. The public hearing is scheduled for January 19. A public meeting regarding the state hospital closure is scheduled for January 12 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. at the Conservation District and Agricultural Center, 1451Peters Mountain Road, Dauphin. For more information contact Betty Simmonds at PCPA.

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