Parents voice concerns over planned closing of the White Haven Center

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(WBRE/WYOU) — It’s been a bad stretch for employment in Luzerne County. We learned Wednesday a move is underway to close SCI Retreat with more than 400 jobs at stake.

This comes soon after we learned the state also will close the White Haven Center for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A group of people with a lot on the line showed they’re not going down without a fight.

It was a room filled with emotion and lots of concern for the future. Parents of residents who’ve lived in White Haven Center for years voicing their concerns Wednesday night at a public meeting with the board of trustees.

Backing them up? Some of the center’s more than 400 employees, including caregivers who say you can’t put a price on the specific type of quality care they offer.

In what appears to be a done deal, the state plans to close White Haven Center in 2022, saying residents would be better served in private facilities. The move would also save the state taxpayer dollars.

Senator John Yudichak, whose mother used to work at White Haven, says making budget is important but not at the expense of families who rely on White Haven to care for loved ones.

“This decision is emotional, it’s personal and it can be potentially devastating to the people served in this center that will be moved, and it’s devastating to the families that love them,” Yudichak said.

“You can feel the uncertainty, that they’re questioning can the community system care for their loved one the same way that the people here have done?” Senator Lisa Baker said.

Wednesday’s meeting comes on the heels of more bad news for Luzerne County. After the announcement that SCI Retreat in Newport Township is set to close, costing another 400-plus jobs.

SCI Retreat was targeted for closure two years ago but remained open after a massive public outcry. Parents of White Haven residents are hoping public outcry works in this case. They believe the governor can and should change the decision to close.

“We’re supposed to live in a Commonwealth. We’re supposed to have a say in what happens to our loved ones. So, automatically they lost all their rights?” parent Rosemary Oliver said.

There’s another chance for opponents to speak out. There’s a public meeting Thursday September 12 at 5 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Church in White Haven.

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