Dr. Levine is currently physician general for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. A graduate of Harvard College and Tulane University of School of Medicine, Dr. Levine has worked in the field of adolescent medicine since 1988. As Physician General, Dr. Levine advises the governor and the secretary of health on health policy, and participates in the decision-making process of other executive departments on medical and public health-related issues.

At the Department of Health, Dr. Levine has focused on Pennsylvania’s need to increase its childhood vaccination rates. The Department of Health’s “Don’t Wait. Vaccinate.” campaign urges all children to be fully vaccinated before they start school. Vaccines are among the most effective and safe tools available for preventing harm and death to children. Under Governor Wolf’s leadership, the Department of Health is working to ensure that we not only have ‘schools that teach’ but ‘healthy schools that teach’ in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Levine also serves as a lead in the Commonwealth’s efforts to combat the largest public health crisis in PA, the prevalence of opioid overdoses and deaths. Every day, Pennsylvania loses at least seven citizens to overdose deaths. Earlier this year, Dr. Levine signed a standing order to ensure that first responders, such as the Pennsylvania State Police and municipal fire companies, can carry and administer naloxone, a life-saving over-dose reversal medication. Dr. Levine worked with expert stakeholders to create opioid prescribing guidelines for dentists and doctors. She continues to support the work by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, to ensure that treatment is available and opioid dependent individuals receive a facilitated referral, called a ‘warm hand-off,’ to recovery treatment.

Additionally, Dr. Levine will continue to utilize her position as physician general to call attention to the prevalence of eating disorders, the importance of suicide prevention among young people, and the significance of successful adolescent sexual health programs.

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In conjunction with the United Way, RCPA forwarded its members a survey regarding how a late state budget was affecting their businesses. United Way did a summary of the survey results, and a quick snapshot of the findings reveal:

  • 152 organizations report staff impacts – layoffs, hour reduced, benefits reduced, etc.
    – 45 individuals have been laid off or furloughed from F/T employment
    – 50 individuals have been laid off or furloughed from P/T employment
    – 522 employees had hours reduced
    – 73 people are working without pay
    – 510 people lost access to employee benefits
  • 70 percent of the respondents have between $20,000 and $250,000 per organization that is delayed as a result of the impasse. 19 responded that they are owed more than $1 million each.
  • 64 organizations estimated their interest costs through October. They responded in categories; the chart is included in the findings summary linked above. Another 19 shared interest amounts in the comments section that were lower than the base threshold.
  • Only 24 percent believe they are eligible for the interest payment relief proposed by the administration.
  • A high number of respondents (42%) are not able to access additional lines of credit at this time.

RCPA encourages members to use the survey summary results to contact the governor and your state legislators to inform them why it’s absolutely necessary for them to pass a state budget sooner rather than later. Please contact Jack Phillips with any questions.

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Last week, the State Senate passed two funding bills, SB1000 and SB1001, on party-line votes. These bills would authorize short-term funding for health and human service providers as well as education. The funding would be retroactive to July 1, the start of the current 2015/16 Fiscal Year, and would last until the end of October, 2015

After passing the Senate chamber, the two short-term budget bills were sent to the House. The bills are scheduled for final passage on Thursday, September 24, and then they will be sent to the governor for his signature.

According to the governor and Democrat leadership, the stopgap budget bills do not solve the problem. Democrats argue that the budget passed by Republicans in June was ineffective and the governor had every right to veto it. Furthermore, they assert that passing short-term funding bills based upon the vetoed budget is unwise, when the governor has proposed something comprehensive and even better. Democrats also contend that an approved stopgap would make it less likely for negotiations with Wolf, who has said he will veto the stopgap, to produce a full budget.

Republicans maintain that passing temporary funding for schools and human service agencies makes sense and negotiations would not stop just because stopgap funding was approved. Republicans are asking why those who need state dollars should be forced to wait for at least some funding while the Republicans and the governor work on a permanent budget.

RCPA has been, and continues to be, concerned about the effects of a late state budget on health and human service providers. The state budget stalemate between the General Assembly and Governor Wolf is having real and lasting effects on these providers and the people they serve across the Commonwealth.

RCPA supports the stopgap funding. The association has been in contact with the General Assembly and the governor’s office, encouraging them to pass and sign the stopgap funding bills into law, so health and human service providers can continue services to the most vulnerable individuals throughout Pennsylvania.

In anticipation of both bills’ final passage in the House, RCPA is strongly encouraging members to contact the governor today, to encourage him to sign the stopgap bills, as was done by Governor Rendell in 2003 and 2009, until a compromise can be reached on a permanent spending plan for FY 2015/16.

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This week, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo will introduce a stopgap budget proposal that will fund the entire state budget for four months from July 1, 2015 until October 31, 2015. The funding level will be the same as the state budget for fiscal year 2014/15, for those four months.

RCPA has been advocating for a short-term funding bill as negotiations continue on a final budget.  RCPA is pleased with this proposal, because many of our members are not as financially strong as they were last time the Commonwealth had a late budget, so they are having more difficulties staying solvent. As a result, many individuals who rely on human services programs already may not be receiving the quality services that our members provide.

RCPA is strongly encouraging members to contact their local representatives and encourage her or him to sign onto Rep. DiGirolamo’s co-sponsorship memo, Stopgap Budget Proposal.

Contact Jack Phillips with questions.

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Kathy M. Manderino

Secretary Manderino

RCPA asked the following questions, to help members become more acquainted with Secretary Manderino, and we thank the secretary for her responses:

  1. What are your priorities in your new state position?
  2. What are your goals for your department/office?
  3. What issues will you be addressing your first year?
  4. What do you feel are obstacles to achieving your goals?
  5. How will you work with the appropriate stakeholders as you move the system forward?

Working to serve people in need remains a cause dear to my heart. As a former board member for the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association’s predecessor PCPA, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to discuss my goals for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I).

Governor Tom Wolf’s vision for Pennsylvania is jobs that pay, schools that teach, and government that works. That vision fits the mission of the L&I to a “T,” and dovetails with L&I’s mission to provide jobs that pay for every Pennsylvanian of every ability, education, and training to match those jobs, and the efficient and effective delivery of services.

A key L&I priority this year is the implementation of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA. It is an historic collaboration between L&I and workforce development stakeholders statewide to reinvent the state’s workforce development programs. The end goal is to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market, and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy.

While there are always some hurdles to implementing change within any state agency, my approach is to address issues by focusing on what can be accomplished – versus what can’t. I’ve charged my team at L&I to be a “can do” agency dedicated to making positive improvements and changes to existing programs that benefit and support Pennsylvania’s workers and employers.

Especially because of my past advocacy work and experience at Intercommunity Action Inc., I’ve taken a keen interest in the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR). Improving services for transition age youth and selecting a permanent director for the Hiram G. Andrews Center and implementing a strategic vision for its future success is another of my first-year priorities. I look forward to continuing to work closely with our OVR management team, and its dedicated stakeholders, to implement our vision to help people with disabilities prepare for, obtain, and maintain employment and independence.

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Act 62 of 2008 created the license requirement for behavior specialists; however, in recent years, a significant issue has arisen due to the narrow licensure requirement for behavior specialists specified. This has jeopardized access to early intervention services for many children with autism. For the past several months, RCPA government affairs and policy staff, along with RCPA members in southwestern Pennsylvania, have been working with Representative Dan Miller (D-Allegheny) to draft an amendment to address this concern.

Under Act 62, a behavior specialist must obtain 1,000 hours of direct clinical experience with individuals with behavioral challenges to apply for the licensure. Degree-granting programs generally do not include this level of direct clinical experience in their coursework or internships. Thus, graduates must either plan employment throughout their coursework or take lower paying jobs post-graduation.

Representative Miller’s proposed amendment will:

  • Allow licensed behavior specialists to supervise non-licensed, graduate-level clinicians providing autism services while they obtain the 1,000 required hours of clinical experience to apply for licensure.
  • Establish a temporary practice license that could be granted to the graduate-level clinician as they obtain their service hours under the supervision of allow licensed behavior specialists, licensed physicians, and licensed psychologists.
  • Amend the educational requirements of a behavior specialist to recognize those individuals who are Board Certified Behavioral Analysts.

RCPA is strongly encouraging members to contact their local Representative and encourage her or him to sign onto the co-sponsorship memo, Protect Access to Autism Services-Behavioral Specialist Consultant Licensure, in support of the creation of a temporary behavior specialist license.