Senate Passes Bill 906

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(WBRE/WYOU) — The fight to keep two state facilities for people with special needs continues.

The Senate passed a bill that would stop the state from closing White Haven and Polk State Centers. Senate Bill 906 was passed in a 28-21 vote. Now the bill will go to Governor Wolf’s office for a final decision. State lawmakers and family members are pleading with the governor to sign it and give families the choice between a private or state facility.

Thomas Kashatus’ daughter, Maria, has called White Haven State Center home for about 40 years. But that could soon be coming to an end.

“I don’t think my daughter would have survived the 40 years if she was bouncing around group homes like she originally did,” Kashatus said.

Kashatus is also the guardian of a handful of others at White Haven.

“I’m not only concerned for Maria. I’m concerned for other individuals that are there,” Kashatus said.

For decades, the state has tried to shut down White Haven and Polk State Centers but this has been its closest attempt at successfully doing it. The state believes closing the facilities is cost-effective and that community living is better for people with special needs. State senator John Yudichak disagrees.

“All we are saying in Bill 906 is that the families who love their sons and daughters should have the choice of whether their child is in community-based care or in a state center,” Yudichak said.

The Senate passed this bill that would stop the two state centers from closing even though they expect Governor Wolf to veto it, proving the battle is far from over.

“This could be a life or death decision to take someone who’s known and has grown comfortable with the level of care,” Yudichak said.

“White Haven, there is so many ways we that we can expand and evolve it. There is so much good that can be done. But they have to open the doors and allow families to have a choice,” Representative Tarah Toohil said.

Kashatus plans to also file a lawsuit to stop the state from closing down White Haven and Polk State Centers. The Senate can still override the governor’s veto.

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