Nanticoke,PA − September 12, 2019 − State Senator John Yudichak provided the following written testimony at the Department of Human Services public hearing tonight on the planned proposed closure of White Haven Center:
Good evening. I stand with the families of White Haven tonight to offer my vigorous opposition to the proposed closure of White Haven Center.
The proposal to close White Haven Center is wrong from a budgetary standpoint, a policy perspective, and, most of all, it is the wrong way to treat people with intellectual disabilities, the families who love them, and the dedicated professionals who care for them.
I can offer few words more passionate than those offered tonight by the families of White Haven Center. I am proud of these families, and I’m honored to lend my voice to their cause.
I hope our voices here tonight ring out across Pennsylvania and spark a movement — a movement to save White Haven Center and a movement to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society from the misguided political trends that are driving the Department of Human Services’ decision to close White Haven Center.
I have a long history with White Haven Center. My mother, Sally Yudichak, worked at the Center for many years. She came to White Haven Center after losing her job when Nanticoke State Hospital was closed. I have great empathy for the workers who now will have to go through the similar painful experience of being uprooted from the job they love.
Understand and absorb that statement, these workers love their job. It is among the toughest jobs you can find in the care industry, but they love it —because they love the people who call White Haven Center their home.
For the White Haven Center families, there is great comfort in knowing their loved ones are being treated with the utmost respect and care from a loving, dedicated staff.
Instead of fostering that kind of respect, care, and compassion, DHS is dramatically and dangerously disrupting the lives of those who live at White Haven Center.
In addition to the personal impact, closing White Haven Center will also have dramatic negative impact on the community of White Haven.
If the Center were to close, the Greater White Haven Chamber of Commerce estimates that business losses will range from 20 to 65 percent — meaning more Luzerne County families will be out of a job.
Adding insult to injury, it was recently announced that the Department of Corrections is proposing to close SCI Retreat in Luzerne County.
A closure of both White Haven Center and SCI Retreat will result in the loss of 840 quality jobs and deliver an annual economic loss of $105.3 million to our regional economy.
Luzerne County has come so far in the last 20 years – we have the lowest unemployment rate in 43 years, and we have created thousands of private sector jobs in the I-81 corridor from Hazleton to Pittston. Even with that success; however, the WB/Scranton Metropolitan Area still has the highest rate of unemployment anywhere in Pennsylvania.
The closure of White Haven Center and the closure of SCI Retreat could halt all of our economic progress, drive up unemployment, and slip our region into a recession.
The Department of Human Services should reconsider its decision to close White Haven Center and reflect on the staggering negative impact this decision will have on individuals with intellectual disabilities, their caring families, the professional employees who care for them, and the economy of Luzerne County.
I implore you to ignore the capricious political trends of Harrisburg and keep White Haven Center open for the families that call it home.