Federal Judge Gives State Green Light To Close Institution
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 7, 2006
ALTOONA, PENNSYLVANIA--Pennsylvania's smallest state-operated institution housing people with intellectual disabilities can be closed as scheduled, now that a federal judge has refused to interfere with the state's plans.
Last Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Kim Gibson said that it would amount to improper federal interference in state affairs for him to side with parents of residents who want Altoona Center to remain open.
The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat reported that the Department of Public Welfare announced its plans one year ago to close the facility and move about half of its 90 residents into homes in the community and the other half to the state-run Ebensburg Center.
Some parents tried to block the closure, arguing that doing so would violate the residents' rights to be served in the least restrictive setting under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
Gibson said that, while the ADA was not intended to force states to close facilities or force residents into specific settings, federal courts have deferred to "the program-funding decisions of state policy makers."
Gibson ordered the state to allow residents transferred to group homes to leave and enter Ebensburg Center instead, if the family desires over an 18 month period.
The population of people with intellectual disabilities in state-run institutions has dropped from 13,000 in 1985 to 1,475 today, the Tribune-Democrat noted.
"Federal judge will not block center's closure" (Tribune-Democrat)
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