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​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.

Shirley J. Pickens
Facility Director

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

It is the philosophy of Polk Center that as citizens of the United States and residents of Polk Center, protecting the rights of those who live here is paramount. We are committed to empowering them to exercise their rights to the fullest extent. These rights are shared with the individuals on a routine basis. They include:

  • Freedom from abuse, neglect and unnecessary use of restraints
  • Respect and fairness
  • Freedom of expression
  • Personal possessions
  • Send and receive correspondence
  • Compensation for work and managing own money
  • Choose and have access to personal belongings
  • Voting
  • Advocacy
  • Attend meetings
  • Choice in where he/she prefers to live
  • Keeping health information protected


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 7:45 a.m-3:15 p.m.: The concrete shop sells sidewalk stones, curbstones, and a wide variety of decorative concrete items large and small from gnomes to benches.
    • Greenhouse 7:45 a.m.-3:15 p.m.: Open year-round with extended summer hours.
    • Car Wash 9-11 a.m.: Open year-round by appointment only.
    • Canteen 7:30 a.m-5 p.m: The canteen serves light breakfasts and lunches.

Except for the Canteen, all areas are open Monday thru Friday and are closed weekends and holidays.


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).