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Update on State Facility Closures
January 7, 2005

Deputy Secretary Kevin Casey, Office of Mental Retardation, has notified PCPA that the department plans to close the Altoona Mental Retardation Center this year. Casey is requesting community providers’ assistance in developing alternatives for the 90 individuals, many who are medically fragile, moving back into their communities that cover a 24 county area. It is anticipated that at least 45 residents will be placed in the community in 2005 and 45 others will initially be transferred to Ebensburg Center in Cambria County, while community planning continues.

In a January 4 Info PCPA reported on the impending closures. The official announcement came in a press release issued on January 6. Secretary of Public Welfare Estelle Richman indicated the intent of closing both facilities is to return millions of dollars used to run the more restrictive, costly services at facilities to the community, to develop and sustain programs and continue to improve the mental health and disability service delivery system in the commonwealth. The Department of Public Welfare’s (DPW) intent is to provide options and choice to individuals for community living arrangements and supports.

Public hearings will be held by DPW to accept comments about the closing of both facilities.

  • The Altoona Center hearing will be held on January 25, 6:00 p.m. at the Ramada Inn, 1 Sheraton Drive, Altoona, PA. People who would like to speak are asked to register by calling Patricia McCool at 717-772-6507.
  • The Harrisburg State Hospital hearing will be held in two sessions on January 27, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., at Zembo Mosque, 2801 N. Third Street, Harrisburg, PA. Register to speak by calling Lisa Brommer at 717-772-7584.

Legislators and county representatives have indicated their concerns regarding these transitions to community services and the assurance that the appropriate and adequate funding will be available from the state. Senator Patricia Vance (R-Cumberland) said in an interview with the Harrisburg Patriot News January 7 that the community mental health programs already have long waiting lists and she is concerned that the state won’t provide enough money to create programs. Vance said she and other local legislators surveyed local counties and found waiting lists for more than 200 people needing services such as supported living. The Dauphin county commissioners are hosting a public meeting to discuss the Harrisburg State Hospital closure where the county’s plan to address the closure will be presented. The commissioners request attendee input as they develop public comment and service needs strategy with the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The meeting will be held January 12, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. at the Dauphin County Agricultural Center, 1451 Peters Mountain Road, Dauphin, PA, 17018. For more information or directions to the meeting contact the Dauphin County MH/MR Program at 717-780-7050.

For additional information contact Linda Drummond or Betty Simmonds at PCPA.

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