Pennhurst & PA Deinstitutionalization


Western Center – Allegheny County

In September of 1989, we filed Richard C. v. John F. White, Jr., a class action on behalf of over 400 residents of the Western Center seeking to close the institution, which warehoused people with developmental disabilities in a segregated and harmful setting. We were joined in the lawsuit by the Disabilities Rights Network and Allegheny County.

In February of 1992, the Court certified the class of residents, and later that year the parties in the case reached a settlement agreement to phase out and close the Western Center. Though the vast majority of residents and families were happy to receive community placements and services, some residents’ family members opposed the settlement, hoping to keep the Western Center open. The judge approved the settlement over their objections in 1993. Still, litigation continued as the settlement went into effect and residents began moving into the community. The remaining challenges to the settlement were finally rejected in 1999, and the Western Center – then housing only 63 residents – closed in 2000.