Begin Main Content Area

​Polk State Center

In the northwestern part of Pennsylvania is where you will find the tranquil tree-lined location of Polk Center. This historic Center has been serving people with intellectual disabilities since 1897. As an intermediate care facility for People with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID), the Center provides 24-hour supported living, medical care, and developmental activities. An interdisciplinary team of staff provides a wide array of quality services to the adults who make Polk Center their home.

Polk Center focuses on providing an everyday life for the people we support based on the Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programs' "Everyday Lives" principles. We strive to make each person's living arrangements home-like, cozy and individually decorated. Some people work at jobs of their choosing, while others participate in the Senior Center or life skills education.

Each year, everyone who lives at the Center participates in a person-centered planning meeting that focuses on their dreams, aspirations, abilities, needs, and desires. Participants at this meeting include anyone who is involved in a person's life such as family members, special friends, residential support staff, physicians, nurses, and clergy. From this, an "Individualized Support Plan" is developed to provide tailored medical, spiritual, social, vocational, educational and rehabilitative services, as well as considerations for community inclusion.

Mission Statement

It is the mission of Polk Center to promote self-determination by empowering people to live the life they want while ensuring safety and optimal health.

Guiding Principles

Promoting compassion, respect, and valuing one another. Working together as a team and part of the community to provide a home and a family way of living, respecting and exercising rights and choices, and acknowledging each person's needs, dreams, and desires.

Consumer Rights

According to the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, the United States Congress has found that "[D]isability is a natural part of the human experience that does not diminish the right of individuals with developmental disabilities to live independently, to exert control and choice over their own lives, and to fully participate in and contribute to their communities through full integration and inclusion in the economic, political, social, cultural, and educational mainstream of United States society;"

Polk Center is committed to protecting the rights of the individuals that live here, as citizens of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and empowering them to assert their rights to the fullest extent. These rights include but are not limited to:

  • Freedom from abuse and neglect
  • Respect and fairness
  • Freedom from unnecessary restraints
  • Freedom from experimental programs
  • Freedom of expression
  • Personal possessions
  • Choice and access to personal belongings
  • Choice of clothing
  • Money management
  • Voting in elections
  • Being informed and ability to choose services
  • Choose community services
  • Notification of program changes
  • Choice of day program services
  • Participation in Center activities and events
  • Representation by a lawyer or advocate
  • Payment for work
  • Personal privacy
  • Confidentiality
  • Private conversations
  • Send and receive mail unopened
  • Religious freedom
  • Being informed about your rights
  • Attendance at personal meetings
  • Ability to read personal chart
  • Refusal of treatment
  • Marriage and intimate relationships
  • Clean, safe and personalized environment
  • Adequate nutrition
  • Have complaints addressed by the Center
  • Pursue interests and hobbies


The Polk Center's roots stretch back to 1893 when then; Pennsylvania Governor Robert E. Pattison appointed a commission to select a site in Northwestern Pennsylvania for the creation of an "Institution for the Feeble-Minded." At that time, only one such institution existed in the Commonwealth, the Elwyn School, which was located in the eastern part of the state. After careful consideration, the Polk site was chosen for its abundance of natural resources, fertile farmland, and access to railways. Construction soon began on the 2,000-acre campus and Polk Center opened its doors in the spring of 1897. Many of our historic buildings were modeled after the architectural theory of Dr. Thomas Kirkbride. Communities are offset so that each room has access to sun and fresh air, the proposed therapy of the day. From 1916 to 1917, Mr. T. Kawada, a Japanese teacher, and psychologist, visited Polk Center and worked alongside Superintendent Dr. Murdoch. Based on what Mr. Kawada learned, he returned to Japan and designed a home and training school for those with intellectual disabilities. In 2004, a group of professors from Japan's University of Tsukuba returned to trace Mr. Kawada's experience and update themselves on the progress of Polk Center through the years. They left impressed and published their experiences in a Japanese textbook. By 1955, the census at Polk Center exceeded 3,400 persons. This number dropped to 3,000 in 1970 and has continued to decline over the next decades following the advent of more community-based services. Today, we are committed to an interdisciplinary model and seek the varied expertise of many staff and family members to support the people, who call Polk Center home, with important life decisions.

Community Services

The following work areas are open to the Public:

  • Concrete: The concrete shop sells sidewalk stones, curbstones, and a wide variety of decorative concrete items large and small from gnomes to benches.
  • Greenhouse: Open year-round with extended summer hours.
  • Car Wash: Open year-round by appointment only.
  • Canteen: The canteen serves light breakfasts and lunches.


From the North and South:

  • Take Interstate 79 to Exit #121 (Old Exit 33).
  • Exit bearing left and take Route 62 towards Franklin.
  • This brings you into Polk in approximately 15 miles.
  • Turn left into the Facility at the main entrance.
  • The Administration Building is directly ahead (the building with the clock tower).

From the East and West:

  • Take Interstate 80 to Exit #29 (Old Exit 3) Barkeyville.
  • Exit bearing right on to Route 8 North.
  • Route 8 north approximately 15 miles.
  • Take Route 62 West approximately 6 miles.
  • Turn right into the facility at the main entrance.
  • The Administration Building is directly ahead (the building with the clock tower).