House Resolution 187 established a task force that charged itself with investigating the PA Office of Mental Retardation Multi-year Plan which is currently under consideration. This task force is chaired by Representative Russell Fairchild, Republican, Union/Snyder counties (Laurelton State Center is in Union County and Selinsgrove State Center is in Snyder County). Thus far, in the hearings conducted across the state the majority of individuals who have been allowed to testify are those who promote institutional care, those who run institutions, and the union representatives who have secured jobs in state institutions. Among those who support community options and choices other than institutions, the allotted time to testify has been scarce and advocates would agree that the hearings are biased toward providing a forum to promote state institutions for the mentally retarded. In the development of the PA multi-year plan, a work group of diverse individuals met over a long period and conducted public testimony across the state allowing for input into the development of the plan by a broad base of Pennsylvania residents. In the end , the multi-year plan was seen as a "compromise plan". It did not and does not call for the closure of institutions in PA and there is a commitment that no resident would be moved against their will or their families. It did and does provide, for the first time, a consumer and family driven system that would expand individualized community living options for those on waiting lists as well as allow for 1,500 residents of institutions to move to appropriate community living arrangements. In the composition of the multi-year planning group were at a minimum four parents or family members representing the interests of families who have a loved one in a state institution. These individuals signed off on the multi-year plan, their signatures signifying agreement. Afterwards, they went to state legislators claiming they had no input in the process and that the state planned to close institutions. These claims led way to HR 187 and the current hearings.
As an overview the plan makes eight recommendations: 1. Restructure relationships with Counties to ones which are based on formal contracts with defined outcomes and indicators of quality, while increasing consumer and family involvement in decision making and governance. 2. Shift priorities to the support of services built on natural supports and person centered planning. 3. Create mechanisms for individual and family control of resources 4. Pursue regulatory reform to promote self determination and family control of resources (note: opens the way for a voucher system in which money follows the person instead of program funded slots). 5. Unify funding and eliminate categorical allocations to create a single system for all Pennsylvanians with mental retardation 6. Invest savings from reorganization and increased efficiency into reducing the waiting list for services 7. Provide supports for up to 1, 500 people who choose to move from state facilities into community settings over a five year period (while continuing operation of the state facilities beyond the end of the planning period) 8. convert private ICF/MR funded facilities to the Medicaid Waiver Program
Others have perhaps said it best. What follows is a resolution of the PA Developmental Disabilities Council. "The DDC is a 20 person council, appointed by the Governor, representing various perspectives concerned with the well-being of people with developmental disabilities. By Executive Order and the federal Developmental Disabilities Act (PF 103-230) the council is charged to improve the lives of people with disabilities by ensuring maximum opportunities for integration, inclusion, independence, and productivity. At it's meeting on June 19th, 1997, the Council voted to endorse the OMR/PAC Multi-year Plan in its 6/97 version. While Council's position regarding deinstitutionalization is known from its 1991 resolution calling for the closure of State Centers, we are currently concerned with advancing the fundamental principles of the plan, including both the advancement of choice and a commitment to improvement in the quality of the community system, rather than engaging in further debate over the merits of deinstitutionalization. While a rancorous and polarized debate has occurred over this issue, it is our view that such a debate, however significant, is neither germane nor productive in discussing the multi-year plan. The plan, as written and approved, does not call for full deinstitutionalization and focus on this issue unnecessarily detracts attention from the plan, its moderate goals, and its necessary systems reforms. In the view of the Developmental Disabilities Council the plan is an acceptable compromise document which calls for increased opportunities for those who live in State Centers to have a life more fully rooted in the community, should they and their families wish such a choice. At the same time the plan heeds the calls of those concerned with the quality of the community system, and devotes most of its bulk to addressing the need to create a community system which is more accountable, more individualized, and more consumer and family driven. The plan does not call for the closing of institutions, nor does it propose moving anyone from a state center against their will. It does not remove the perceived need for a "safety net" capacity in the state centers, nor does it fail to address the issues of quality and safety in community programs. We regard the plan to be a moderate and sensible document, supportable by all Pennsylvanians concerned with improving the lives of our citizens with mental retardation."
Make your opinion known. Below is the HR 187 Task force members. Write to them and to your state representatives, the governor. There is a window of opportunity to create real choice in the community system. Don't let it close! HR 187 Task force members: Rep. Russ Fairchild (R) , Union and Snyder Counties, ph: 717-524-2788 Rep. Scott Hutchinson, (R) Venango county, ph: 814-677-6363 Rep. Joseph Markosek, (D) Allegheny/Westmoreland, 412-856-8284 Rep. Todd Eachus, (D) Luzerne, 717-450-7905 Rep. Frank Oliver, (D), Philadelphia, 215-684-3738 Rep. Louis Bishop, (D), Philadelphia, 215-879-6625 Rep. Leo Trich, (D) Washington, 412-228-9047 Rep. Patricia Vance, (R), Cumberland, 717-975-1985 Rep. Patrick Fleagle, (R), Franklin, 717-762-6001 Rep. Pat Browne, (R), Lehigh, 610-435-3854 Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, (R), Centre and Mifflin, 814-355-1300