(WBRE/WYOU) — The backlash is intensifying Thursday in the aftermath of the state’s decision to close the White Haven Center.
The facility provides residential care for physically and intellectually challenged individuals. Thursday, those impacted by the decision vow to fight to keep the center open.
There are still lots of questions, concerns and in some cases downright anger because of that decision. Thursday, lawmakers family members and employees say they are mobilizing to keep the doors of the White Haven Center open.
“The way it was handled was sort of cloak and dagger stuff. Was alarming,” Gerry Flynn, Center employee said.
Flynn is a residential unit supervisor at the White Haven Center. He also is chief steward of the union that represents the 429 employees of the Center. He’s been there more than 30 years.
“How this just jumped up out of nowhere,” Flynn said.
The state is in the process of closing centers like White Haven and transitioning residents, including the 112 residents at White Haven to private facilities. They say it’s more cost-efficient for the state and more importantly they say it benefits the residents. Public meetings will be held during the closure process.
But Flynn says: “These meetings should have been held before the decision was made. These decisions should be held to make a sound decision not to justify a poor one.”
State representative Aaron Kaufer and other area lawmakers are demanding answers.
“When the government is taking these types of actions there needs to be transparency and discussion on what’s going on. To just blindside people and say this might be happening is really not the right way of doing things,” Kaufer said.
Eyewitness News asked the Secretary of Pennsylvania Human Services on Wednesday is there any possibility it can remain open and Secretary Teresa Miller responded: “Today we announced the closing of the White Haven Center so I don’t see a possibility for the White Haven Center to stay open.”
But Flynn vows: “We have to proceed as though the fight is winnable you know. We’ll mobilize, we’ll double our efforts. Whether we can or not remains to be seen. This is just getting started. We’ll fight this with our last ounce of strength.”
The first public meeting on the closing will be held next month, September 12 in Hazleton. Flynn expects that hearing to be standing room only.
The White Haven Center will be closed by 2022. Another facility in northwestern Pennsylvania will also be closed.