State

2nd LEGISLATION ACTION ALERT – URGENT

What:  HB 137, Rep. Quinn

This bill is intended to compel individuals who overdose to obtain a screening and referral for addiction treatment by making immunity from prosecution contingent upon their doing so within 30 days of receiving emergency services for the overdose.

Contact:  Your State Representative and your State Senator in all districts in which you have programs and/or reside.

*Please note we are asking you to contact your Senators & Representatives, not just those on the appropriations committee. This bill is primed to move next week and we want all legislators to know of our concerns.*

When:  Today, Friday, December 13 and Monday December 16, 2019

Why:  HB 137 has significant potential to have serious unintended consequences that may ultimately result in deaths, avoidance or delay of medical care and overburdening an already stressed system of care for Pennsylvanians struggling with the disease of addiction.       

Talking points:

  • Ask your State Representatives and State Senators to VOTE NO when HB 137 comes before them.
  • Many people who are actively using drugs have a deep distrust of emergency responders and fear of being arrested and prosecuted for drug related crimes, despite the passage of “David’s Law”. Word-of-mouth accounts of inconsistencies by police and prosecutors maintain this fear and are a barrier to contacting emergency assistance, even during an overdose.

If passed, this bill is very likely to exacerbate these fears and further inhibit or delay calls for assistance in a life and death situation when seconds count.

  • For individuals who are not yet ready or contemplating beginning treatment, mandating treatment is ineffective and may deter them from seeking help in the future.
  • Many providers of drug & alcohol treatment are working near or at capacity, particularly for patients whose care is paid for with public dollars. This bill will increase the demand for treatment providers to spend time and dollars on evaluations for people who are not ready or interested in treatment. This essentially deters resources from people who are actively seeking care.
  • From the bill, it is also unclear whether an individual would still be prosecuted if their screening does not indicate a referral for treatment, or if they receive a referral but do not enter treatment.
  • We share the concern for the health and wellbeing of Pennsylvanians who are overdose survivors and consider them a priority population. We also recognize that people who suffer from the disease of addiction may require a variety of kinds of engagements with helping professionals before deciding to enter treatment. Each of the commonwealth’s 47 Single County Authorities has a warm hand-off policy that involves emergency personnel, physical and psychiatric health services, Certified Recovery Specialists, primary care, and pain management physicians, as appropriate, to engage this vulnerable population in a variety of ways.
  • We know that the decision to enter treatment that leads to sustained recovery cannot be legislated.

Questions, contact Kristen Houser, RCPA’S Director of Drug & Alcohol, or Jack Phillips, RCPA’s Director of Government Affairs.

As we approach the conclusion of the Governor’s Council on Reform public comment period on December 16, 2019, RCPA would like to ensure that each member has the materials for providing their public comments, feedback, and support. RCPA will be submitting commentary within each policy director’s purview, and we strongly urge your agency to submit your thoughts to the Council, including areas and issues that may not be represented in the current recommendations.

If you would like to send your submissions to your respective policy director for inclusion in the RCPA public comment, please have them submitted by close of business on Wednesday December 11, 2019.

Below you will find the links to important documents relating to the Council on Reform, including the Public Comment Submission Form. If you have further questions, please contact your respective RCPA Policy Director.

  1. Governor’s Executive Order
  2. November 1 Press Release
  3. Recommendation Document
  4. Public Comment Form

Thank you for your efforts and partnership to bring these recommendations to the forefront of your work.

What:
HB 137, Rep. Quinn
This bill is intended to compel individuals who overdose to obtain a screening and referral for addiction treatment by making immunity from prosecution contingent upon their doing so within 30 days of receiving emergency services for the overdose.

Contact (phone or email):
Hon. Stan Saylor
Chair, House Appropriations Committee

Hon. Matthew Bradford
Democratic Chair, House Appropriations Committee

Please review the members of the House Appropriations Committee – if you live or operate a program in the district of any of these members, please contact that member as well.

When: By December 16, 2019

Why: HB 137 has significant potential to have serious unintended consequences that may ultimately result in deaths, avoidance or delay of medical care, and overburdening an already stressed system of care for Pennsylvanians struggling with the disease of addiction.

Talking points:

  • Ask the Committee Chairs and any other committee members to VOTE NO when HB 137 comes before the committee
  • Many people who are actively using drugs have a deep distrust of emergency responders and fear of being arrested and prosecuted for drug related crimes, despite the passage of “David’s Law.” Word-of-mouth accounts of inconsistencies by police and prosecutors maintain this fear and are a barrier to contacting emergency assistance, even during an overdose.

If passed, this bill is very likely to exacerbate these fears and further inhibit or delay calls for assistance in a life and death situation when seconds count.

  • For individuals who are not yet ready or contemplating beginning treatment, mandating treatment is ineffective and may deter them from seeking help in the future.
  • Many providers of drug & alcohol treatment are working near or at capacity, particularly for patients whose care is paid for with public dollars. This bill will increase the demand for treatment providers to spend time and dollars on evaluations for people who are not ready or interested in treatment. This essentially deters resources from people who are actively seeking care.
  • From the bill, it is also unclear whether an individual would still be prosecuted if their screening does not indicate a referral for treatment, or if they receive a referral but do not enter treatment.
  • We share the concern for the health and wellbeing of Pennsylvanians who are overdose survivors and consider them a priority population. We also recognize that people who suffer from the disease of addiction may require a variety of kinds of engagements with helping professionals before deciding to enter treatment. Each of the commonwealth’s 47 Single County Authorities has a warm hand-off policy that involves emergency personnel, physical and psychiatric health services, Certified Recovery Specialists, primary care, and pain management physicians, as appropriate, to engage this vulnerable population in a variety of ways.
  • We know that the decision to enter treatment that leads to sustained recovery cannot be legislated.

Questions, contact Kristen Houser, RCPA Director of Drug & Alcohol Division, or Jack Phillips, RCPA Director of Government Affairs.

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Talk in Harrisburg is that the Pennsylvania Senate and Governor Tom Wolf are tentatively moving towards gradually increasing Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $9.50/hour in the next 18 months to two years. The tentative proposal would increase the state’s minimum wage by $2.25 from the current rate of $7.25.

Additionally, the tentative proposal would also prevent the Governor from taking action on a proposed rule to expand overtime to low level managers for the next two years, until after the next governor is elected. State business groups, such as the PA Chamber, may not fight this compromise so long as the overtime expansion is tabled and businesses receive assurances from the Governor that he will allow other employer/employee wage reforms to go through the legislative process and sign those reforms into law.

The deal is still in its infancy and the PA House will have to agree to the proposal. Stay tuned!! Questions, please contact Jack Phillips.

The PA Senate is voting Monday, November 18 on Senate Bill 906, which would institute a moratorium on the scheduled closing of Polk and White Haven State Centers. RCPA supports the closure of the state centers. For further information, please use this link. Questions, please contact Jack Phillips, RCPA Director of Government Affairs.

Press Release from Governor Tom Wolf

Council on Reform Submits Recommendations for the Protection of Vulnerable Populations to Gov. Wolf
> Public Comment Period through December 16, 2019 <

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:

Ages 0-17
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

Ages 18-59
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

Ages 60+
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.

  • Empower communities and vulnerable populations by ensuring access to services for all Pennsylvanians and conducting culturally appropriate and diverse outreach efforts.

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.

View press release online