Today, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Ted Dallas announced that DHS plans to close the Hamburg State Center (Hamburg) for people with intellectual disabilities in Berks County. DHS will also close the civil section of Norristown State Hospital (Norristown) in Montgomery County. The closures are expected to take approximately 18 to 24 months to complete as residents transition to the community.
The closures are part of the Wolf Administration’s commitment to serve more people in the community, reduce reliance on institutional care, and improve access to home- and community-based services for Pennsylvanians.
“Individuals experience a better quality of life when they receive care and support in their homes and in their communities, when possible,” said Dallas. “Today’s announcement means we are expanding opportunities for residents to live their lives to the fullest by returning to their homes and communities as contributing members of society.”
Hamburg State Center
DHS operates five state centers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Hamburg, one of the state centers, currently serves 80 residents at its 154-acre campus.
Over the last 20 years, the resident population at Pennsylvania’s state centers has decreased by nearly 70 percent, from almost 3,000 people to the current 888. Nationally, the number of people with intellectual disabilities living in state-operated centers peaked in 1967. Since then, the number of state-operated centers and people living in them has steadily declined. Fourteen states have closed all of their state-operated centers.
“This closure will enable the residents to live in the community when possible,” said Dallas. “Research shows that community settings result in improved quality of life in areas such as opportunities for integration and social participation, participation in employment, opportunities for choice-making and self-determination, contact with friends and relatives, adaptive behavior, and other indicators of quality of life.”
DHS will hold a public hearing from 1 to 4 p.m. on Monday, January 30, 2017, at the Hamburg Borough Building, 61 North Third St. in Hamburg to accept comment about the closure from stakeholders, officials, and the community. Those wishing to provide comments are asked to register by contacting Connie Meeker at 717.783.8964 or email@example.com. Written comments can be submitted via email to RA-PWRAStateCenters@pa.gov.
DHS has established a toll-free number for family members of Hamburg residents to use during the closure process. Family members will be able to speak with staff from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday by calling 1.888.565.9435.
Norristown State Hospital – Civil Section
DHS operates six state hospitals with services for individuals with mental illness. In the last 20 years, the state hospital population has decreased by 70 percent, from nearly 5,000 people to 1,568 (1,107 in civil units, 159 in the restoration center, 237 in forensic units, and 65 in the Sexual Responsibility and Treatment Program) today.
Norristown’s civil unit currently serves 122 individuals.
During the closure process, DHS will also temporarily repurpose some civil beds at Norristown to create “forensic step down or transition” beds for those individuals committed through the criminal justice system to the forensic section of the Norristown campus. By repurposing the civil beds, DHS will improve the timeliness and quality of treatment for individuals needing forensic restoration services to enable them to return to referring jurisdictions or transition to other appropriate levels of care;
DHS will hold a public hearing from 2:30 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at 1001 Sterigere St., Norristown Hospital, Building 33 in Norristown to accept comment about the closure of civil beds and changes in forensic operations from stakeholders, officials and the community. Those wishing to provide comments are asked to register by contacting Helen Brennan at 610.313.1014 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Written comment can be submitted via email to RA-PWOMHSASComm@pa.gov.
DHS has established a toll-free number for family members of residents of Norristown State Hospital to use during the repurposing process. Family members will be able to speak with staff from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday by calling 1.877.692.1267 or through continued communication with their family member’s treatment team.
Prior to leaving either facility, individuals will participate in a series of assessments and planning meetings in order to determine their level of need for services and support as they look toward a successful life in the community or with family. The assessment and planning process will ensure that their new homes are both safe, appropriate, and supportive and will include the individual and their family in that process.
The transition is about choice and providing people with options. DHS will hold several sessions over the course of the next few months to ensure that each individual, family member, and decision maker is fully informed of all available options and that they have the opportunity to meet with potential providers and explore all potential options.
The department will work to provide both hospital and center staff viable employment opportunities at other state-operated facilities or with new or existing community programs.
“All Pennsylvanians deserve the right to choose where they live - with family, friends, and neighbors in communities where everyone is welcome,” said Dallas.
For more information regarding the closure and the repurposing, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.