Press Release from Governor Tom Wolf
November 1, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf’s Council on Reform, established through his Protection of Vulnerable Populations Executive Order 2019-05, submitted its recommendations for improving the state’s systems to protect its most vulnerable individuals and families.
In late July, Gov. Wolf charged this diverse group of community leaders, providers, stakeholders, and cabinet members with taking a comprehensive look at needs to best serve the state’s vulnerable populations with a mandate to report those recommendations back to him by Nov. 1.
“I took action in July to address long-standing issues with the state’s systems designed to protect our most vulnerable,” Gov. Wolf said. “The first task for the newly formed Council on Reform was to buckle down and develop a comprehensive list of recommendations for how we can best protect vulnerable Pennsylvanians.
“My thanks to all of the council members who shared their expertise and considerable time, and to those who participated by meeting with council members or submitting information and recommendations. Your tireless commitment to this process demonstrates your passion for protecting all Pennsylvanians, especially our most vulnerable. I look forward to reading and analyzing these recommendations and to our next steps to make much-needed changes.”
The 25-member council held its first meeting immediately following the governor’s announcement. In determining its charter and scope, the council defined populations and subpopulations, established committees, and adopted values.
The council determined it would look at protecting vulnerable populations from three perspectives with a separate committee for each: prevention and diversion, protection and intervention, and justice and support.
Populations were broken out by age with subpopulations to ensure vulnerabilities unique to each were considered:
Subpopulations – African Americans, Asian American & Pacific Islanders, Latinos, LGBTQ+ children, young women, children experiencing mental illness, children with intellectual disabilities/autism, children with physical/sensory disabilities, delinquent children, and dependent children
Subpopulations – African Americans, Asian American & Pacific Islanders, Latinos, LGBTQ+ adults, veterans, women, adults experiencing mental illness, adults with intellectual disabilities/autism, adults with physical/sensory disabilities, adults with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, and domestic violence victims
Subpopulations – African Americans, Asian American & Pacific Islanders, Latinos, LGBTQ+ seniors, women, veterans, seniors experiencing mental illness, seniors with intellectual disabilities/autism, seniors with physical/sensory disabilities, seniors with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, and domestic violence victims
The council recommended two overarching goals for Pennsylvania to better protect vulnerable populations:
• Empower and strengthen the workforce serving vulnerable populations by providing comprehensive training, livable salaries and benefits, and support for staff experiencing vicarious trauma.
The council adopted values they believe to be relevant to protecting and serving vulnerable populations – these values are reflected throughout the recommendations:
Cultural Competence – Recognizing and honoring diversity
Person-Centered Approach – Focusing on the individual’s best interest
Community Engagement – Hearing from vulnerable populations, families, experts, and stakeholders
Context & Awareness – Understanding current environment and avoiding past failings
Trauma-Informed – Utilizing trauma-informed approaches across all systems
Workforce Empowerment – Ensuring the workforce is equipped and supported
Members heard from a wide array of existing oversight and advisory bodies, stakeholders, legislators, and constituents. Information was provided through in-person meetings, letters, emails, and a webform that council members distributed to their networks. These contributors provide recommendations for the council to consider and essential insight and context to ensure the council was fully informed. Many council members also served on advisory bodies connected to this work.
The council compiled the recommendations submitted by others along with recommendations from existing reports and assigned them to the appropriate committee for review and consideration. Committee members reviewed all that was submitted, identified common trends, eliminated duplication, and developed new recommendations.
After committees finalized their lists of recommendations, themes were identified that spanned all populations and committees. The result is the comprehensive list of recommendations presented to Gov. Wolf today.
The council advised Gov. Wolf that it “fully recognizes the funding implications of the recommendations that have been developed and the substantial amount of time and work it takes to carry out these recommendations. It is our hope that Pennsylvania will rise to the occasion and put its best effort into driving this much needed change – our most vulnerable are counting on it.”
The council asked that the governor direct the appropriate agencies, organizations, branches of government, and advisory bodies to carry out the recommendations he would like to move forward.
As the council carried out its process, they believed more could be done to engage with constituents. To achieve this, the council added an online public comment form available today through Dec. 16.
Step By Step executive Jim Bobeck has recently announced his retirement. Bobeck served for 33 years as Step By Step’s President and CEO and oversaw an agency that began in the Wilkes-Barre area in the 1970s, which grew to include more than 1,300 employees serving over 2,000 individuals in 18 counties throughout Pennsylvania.
Bobeck has been an active leader for RCPA, as well as its predecessor organization, PARF.
Mr. George Rable, Chairperson of the Step By Step Board of Directors noted, “Under Jim’s leadership and dedication, the Agency has grown tenfold serving a diverse population. He will certainly be missed.”
Bobeck remarked, “I’ve been privileged to be surrounded by the best human service professionals anywhere. Together we developed a community system of care for people with disabilities that ranks as one of the best in the country. Thank you to my lifetime friends made here, and thank you to our consumers who gave me a life filled with purpose.”
Step By Step’s Board of Directors has formed an executive search committee and plans to announce the hiring of a new CEO in the near future.
Join RCPA in supporting National Recovery Month in September. Immediately following the kick-off event, RCPA will be holding their Drug & Alcohol Division meeting on September 4, 2019 at 1:00 pm at the RCPA office, 777 E Park Drive, Harrisburg, PA. Please register to attend our meeting which will feature guest speakers from the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Please forward any agenda items to Tina Miletic for review and discussion. We look forward to your participation.
Please adjust your schedules for a new date and time of the RCPA Drug and Alcohol Division Meeting. RCPA is changing the date of this meeting to Wednesday, September 4 from 1:00 pm–4:00 pm, to be held in the RCPA Conference Room, Penn Grant Centre, 777 E Park Drive, Suite 300, Harrisburg, PA.
The September 4 meeting at 1:00 pm will replace the originally scheduled meeting on September 10 at 12:30 pm. Please plan to attend this meeting where we will introduce Kristen Houser, the new RCPA Drug and Alcohol Division Director, and she will begin her work with RCPA members. Register here to attend.
RCPA is pleased to announce the hiring of Kristen Houser as the new director for its Drug and Alcohol Division. Kristen will be working on policy and regulatory issues on behalf of RCPA Drug and Alcohol member providers and will be based in Harrisburg. She brings extensive experience in coalition building, legislative and policy advocacy, media and public relations, and public speaking to RCPA.
Most recently, Kristen worked for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and National Sexual Violence Resource Center as Chief Public Affairs Officer, where she served as chief spokesperson, promoting both organization’s strategic and policy goals, including raising awareness of the issue and solutions to address it. She is experienced in making complex topics more relatable to the general public, which served her well when meeting with legislators and staff, the Office of the Governor, and other government officials to promote public policies, and when speaking with the media. She is a Governor Appointed member of the PA Commission for Women, and has an array of experience in training, business development, and nonprofit management.
Kristen worked in several other key positions that have intersected with the issues of drug and alcohol treatment and public policy. She served as Executive Director for Centre Volunteers in Medicine, a clinic providing free medical and dental care and case management to qualified residents of Centre County, PA; and as Co-Occurring Task Force Manager for Community Alliance, a project to coordinate care among providers of drugs and alcohol, mental health, and other human services for people with co-occurring disorders who were homeless in Douglas County, Nebraska. She worked on federal legislation, including the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2004, as President of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and on statewide policies during her tenure as Director of Programming & Sexual Assault Program Coordinator for the Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition.
In addition to her bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University, Kristen holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Nebraska. With many prior commitments, Kristen will begin her full-time position with RCPA in October but will be transitioning into the position beginning in August. On behalf of the RCPA Board of Directors, members, and staff, we welcome Kristen to RCPA.
The Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA) is seeking a Drug & Alcohol Division Director. Successful candidates will offer experience and familiarity with the Pennsylvania Drug & Alcohol (D&A) system services and supports. Position responsibilities include responding to RCPA member needs in the D&A area, overseeing all related policy and regulatory issues, and working with key policymakers, including elected officials, commonwealth administrative personnel, and others to influence and report on policy matters. Master’s degree (MA) or equivalent is required, or four to ten years related experience and/or training, or equivalent combination of education and experience. This position is based out of the RCPA Harrisburg facility. See job description for details; contact Tina Miletic to apply or for more information.
RCPA is pleased to announce an important change in personnel. Lynn Cooper will be leaving her current position as Drug and Alcohol (D&A) Division Director and will now be the Director of Cross Systems Development/Western Region Representative. She will specifically be further developing activities in Western PA while addressing important cross-systems projects that have been raised recently.
RCPA will be hiring a new D&A Director to take on these responsibilities, based out of the RCPA office in Harrisburg. This is obviously a big change for Lynn, given her 24 years working in this area (and others) for RCPA, as well as its predecessor, PCPA.
This change is effective immediately; however, there will be a transition period as needed until a new D&A Director is hired. Please join us in welcoming Lynn to this new and exciting role. Contact Richard Edley with any questions.
Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF)
[Announcement from DHS Secretary Miller, from letter to staff]
After more than 30 years of dedicated service to Pennsylvania’s child welfare system, Cathy Utz resigned effective May 3. I am grateful for Cathy’s leadership and service at both the county and state level and for all of her work to strengthen Pennsylvania’s child welfare system and protect children.
Amy Grippi, OCYF’s Chief of Staff, will be the primary point of contact. I am confident that Amy will be a strong leader for OCYF during this transition.
Each of you work some of the most challenging jobs in state government. You face heartbreaking and unthinkable tragedies, provide support for children and families in difficult situations, and most importantly, do critical work to make the world a safer place for children. Thank you for all that you do every day – I am lucky and grateful to work among people who care so much for the children and families each of you work with and protect.
Teresa D. Miller
RCPA wishes Cathy Utz the best and looks forward to working with Chief of Staff Grippi, and the rest of OCYF staff, in the future.