Local community to feel impact of center’s closing

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WHITE HAVEN, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s news that many families in our region have feared for decades. Wednesday, those fears became a reality.

A center that provides a home and services for physically and intellectually challenged individuals will close. Eyewitness News was first to report word of the closing of the White Haven center in Luzerne County. Reaction to that closure is growing.

The closing of the White Haven Center will impact this entire community. Word of its closing spread quickly and people are not happy about it. Some fear what might happen to the area’s economy.

“I think it’s devastating in this area because hundreds of people are out of work and everybody’s business in jeopardy it’s just devastating,” Terry Brownlie, White Haven Diner cashier said.

The White Haven Diner is known for its great food but also on the menu Wednesday, talk of the closing of the nearby White Haven Center. Carol Dennis used to work at the Center.

“It’s sad because these people need a home. They give them a good home. It is sad,” Dennis said.

Larry Sorosky’s brother works at the White Haven Center.

“It’s sad because what are these people going to do,” Sorosky said.

The state is in the process of closing its residential facilities that provide homes and services to people who have physical and intellectual challenges. Those residents will be transitioned into privately owned centers. Tom Kashatus’ 50-year-old daughter has lived at the Center for 40 years.

“Transition is tough and that’s been a proven fact from other transitions, from other facilities and staff like that. Some people have a tough time,” Kashatus said.

State lawmakers say there’s also a negative impact to the area’s economy.

“An economic impact of over $48 million that’s going to hurt. but most importantly I’m thinking about the families,” Senator John Yudichak of Luzerne County said.

“We are absolutely crushed by this decision. This has been something we fought against for years and years wanting to keep this residential facility open,” Representative Tarah Toohil of Luzerne County said.

429 people work at the White Haven Center. We reached out to employees but they did not want to talk about the situation at this point in time. They will be offered jobs at other state agencies and will receive help transitioning to private facilities. The union representing many of these employees is supposed to issue a statement on the closing.

The state will hold public meetings during the transition. The first will be held next month in Hazleton. The public is invited to attend those meetings.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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