Burns: Vigilance needed to ensure Ebensburg State Center stays open

Planned closure of two similar facilities cause for concern

EBENSBURG, Aug. 14 – As the lead public figure in the 2017 fight to keep Ebensburg State Center from closure amid a huge public outcry, state Rep. Frank Burns is urging continued vigilance upon learning that the Wolf administration plans to shutter similar centers in Luzerne and Venango counties.


Burns, D-Cambria, said after the effort two years ago to close the Ebensburg center – which was providing specialized care for nearly 225 severely mentally and physically disabled adults, along with 700 jobs – Gov. Tom Wolf gave assurances that he wouldn’t close the facility through the 2018-19 fiscal year, which has now expired.


“My radar screen has lit up like a pinball machine now that the plan to close Polk State Center in Venango County and White Haven State Center in Luzerne County has been revealed,” Burns said. “It’s an early warning system for those of us who were – and would again be – deeply disturbed at the prospect of losing the Ebensburg State Center forever.”


Burns said closing such a vital facility would make no sense, given the upheaval it would cause in the lives of patients, families and employees. He also questioned why it would be necessary, given that the state just closed the books on a 2018-19 fiscal year with hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus.


“If the state just got done stashing away $800 million in June, it doesn’t make sense to start kicking the most vulnerable among us to the curb in August,” Burns said. “These people need round-the-clock care, and those of us who believe in keeping these facilities open – be they in Venango, Luzerne or Cambria counties – again need to make our voices heard.”


Burns noted that although the 2017 effort to shutter Ebensburg and four other state centers in Pennsylvania was legislative, in the form of a bill that would have required House and Senate approval, the plan to close the Polk and White Haven centers is purely administrative and does not require the legislature’s OK.