Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20th, issued the following statement for the record during the Department of Human Services public hearing held in White Haven on the planned closure of the White Haven State Center:
“Years ago, national commentator William Safire delivered a pointed admonition on the exercise of power: “The right to do something does not automatically mean that doing so is right.”
After extended discussions with families, workers, local leaders, and community supporters of White Haven, my initial reaction has been confirmed. This unexpected closure decision is not right.
There are two words that are sure to offend a community: Harrisburg decided. No matter what the nature of closed door discussions within the bureaucracy, no matter how many statistical analyses were conducted, no matter what national trends are showing, there is a salient fact that cannot be dismissed. Nowhere are we finding evidence of any community or institutional consultation.
Whenever there is the kind of significant commitment – economic, purpose, emotional – that White Haven means, the region deserves full consideration of its needs, rights, and concerns.
Obviously, there is a set of concerns that distinguishes this facility from other state institutions. That is the dependency of the long -time residents, for whom this is home. Movement will be traumatic to their lives, and disruptive to their families. That is a price paid that does not make it into any cost-benefit analysis.
What the lack of consultation also sacrifices is exploration of ways to make the center a multi-purpose facility, where some space could be devoted to other health care or human services. It is impossible to discern what opportunities may be out there if you do not look and ask.
To make a decision that has been depicted as irreversible and then allow for community comment has things exactly backwards by any standard of representative democracy.
The takeaway for state government from this hearing is not that the local protest is made and now the process can proceed. We do not accept or resign ourselves to closure. We intend to avail ourselves of every avenue for challenging this ill-considered action. You have united a region to collective action to preserve the compassionate care that is the hallmark of White Haven Center.”
Andrew M. Seder