I-Team: Father leads efforts to keep White Haven Center open

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FOSTER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Families of residents of a state run facility targeted for closure say they are not giving up their fight to keep the doors open. The White Haven Center in Luzerne County is home to about 90 residents with intellectual and physical challenges.

The state announced closure plans in 2019. Families of residents have been fighting ever since to stop the closure. Eyewitness News spoke with a man who’s daughter was a resident here for 40 years. She recently passed away.

“Maria, being at the White Haven Center, really gave her a quality of life that I don’t see how we could have done that at all,” said Thomas Kashatus, the president of White Haven Center Relatives and Friends.

Kashatus’ 52-year-old daughter Maria lived at the White Haven Center since she was 12. She passed away several weeks ago. Kashatus has been one of the leaders in the fight to keep the White Haven Center open.

The state has been gradually phasing out facilities like White Haven, citing better service as well as cost savings to the commonwealth.

State officials argue that residents will be better served in a community setting. 400 employees also will be out of work. The closure announcement sparked protests from family and friends as well as community leaders.

State lawmakers from our region say they are trying to convince state officials to keep White Haven Center open.

“This is purely an administrative decision from the Department of Human Services. So we have asked them to maintain these facilities and allow families to have choice. So this is about choice and type of care for your intellectually disabled family member,” said Rep. Tarah Toohil (R) 116th District.

“The disruption to these beautiful people that they have chosen the White Haven Center their home they believe that this is the best quality of care for them, that’s what their loved ones feel,” Sen. John Yudichak (I) 14th District said.

For Kashatus, his passion for this fight has intensified.

Mehalshick: “Has her passing motivated you to fight even harder?”

Kashatus: “Absolutely there’s no doubt about it. I’m having a hard time getting over her passing. I keep thinking about the people that are there. The quality of life they have up there. I just think it’s wrong for the State to close it.”

Families have filed a federal lawsuit against the state in an attempt to prevent the closing of the White Haven Center and a similar facility in Western Pennsylvania.

No date has been given for the closing date although in 2019 state officials said it would close in about three years — that would he 2022.

The I-Team reached out to the governor’s office as well the State Department of Human Services which oversees facilities like the White Haven Center to talk about the future of the White Haven Center, a spokesperson for the DHS says they will get back to us. 

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