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.
HARRISBURG (July 31, 2019) — Today, Governor Wolf has signed an Executive Order that begins an overhaul of systems to best help Pennsylvanians most in need of protection and care. The announcement was made at the Capitol in the Governor’s Reception Room.
“Our protective and oversight systems have been built to prioritize institutions over human beings,” stated a release from the Governor’s Office, “Governor Wolf wants to dramatically shift these systems to first-and-foremost advocate, protect, and empower our most vulnerable citizens.”
RCPA President and CEO Richard S. Edley, PhD remarked, “RCPA congratulates the Governor on taking these important steps toward keeping the citizens of our Commonwealth safe and protected, by increasing oversight and accountability of its institutions, as well as improving responsiveness to incident management.” Dr. Edley added, “It is clear that Governor Wolf’s administration is committed to improving the system’s ability to address, and help prevent, the mistreatment of Pennsylvanians in vulnerable situations.”
As part of this initiative, the Governor has created a Council on Reform to review the entire system and compile a report with recommendations by November 1. RCPA’s Richard Edley has been asked to serve on this Council.
In addition to the executive order and action steps by the administration, the Governor will pursue extensive regulatory and legislative actions with input from the General Assembly. A series of announcements on these actions is expected over the coming months.
About the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA):
With well over 350 members, the majority of who serve over 1 million Pennsylvanians annually, Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA) is among the largest and most diverse state health and human services trade associations in the nation. RCPA provider members offer mental health, drug and alcohol, intellectual and developmental disabilities, children’s, brain injury, medical rehabilitation, and physical disabilities and aging services, through all settings and levels of care. Visit www.paproviders.org for more information.
Sharon Militello, RCPA Director of Communications
Early this week, Richard Edley, RCPA President/CEO, met with staffers from Congressmen Costello, Dent, Fitzpatrick, and Meehan’s offices, as well as Senators Toomey and Casey to discuss the current negotiations taking place on health care. RCPA highlighted the financial impacts that the “American Health Care Act” would have on Pennsylvanians and urged the Congressmen and Senators to oppose any proposal that results in cuts or rollbacks of Medicaid. RCPA stressed that Medicaid is the single largest payer of mental health and addiction treatment services in the country. Any proposals that rollback Medicaid coverage or restrict people’s access to treatment will have a significant impact on this vulnerable population.
Additionally, RCPA staff had a productive meeting with Charlotte Pineda in Congressman Fitzpatrick’s office. In that meeting, RCPA gave its support to Congressman Fitzpatrick’s “Road to Recovery Act.” This bipartisan bill addresses the antiquated and problematic IMD Final Rule and will enable Pennsylvania to expand access to residential treatment for substance use disorders, while not intruding on a state’s flexibility to implement care. Jack Phillips, RCPA Director of Government Affairs, will be scheduling additional follow-up meetings with the Congressman and his staff on the “Road to Recovery Act” and other health care issues.
Terry Madonna interviewed Richard Edley on June 1, 2017, for the political/public policy TV program Pennsylvania Newsmakers. Edley discussed several topics with Mr. Madonna, including the state budget/funding for health and human services, the increasing opioid crisis, and unification of state agencies. Video streaming of the entire program is available here (Richard Edley’s segment begins at 13:00). @terrymadonna
In this episode of CPARC Central, RCPA President and CEO Dr. Richard Edley discusses the impact of the PA state budget impasse on services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
An op-ed from Richard Edley, regarding the effects of the delayed state budget on health and human services providers and those that they serve, was published in the Lancaster Newspapers, both in print and online on August 16. Edley was also mentioned in an editorial on this topic in the same day. RCPA continues to work hard for its members and their communities, spreading the message that we must do everything possible to help ensure the continuation of vital services to our most vulnerable residents in the Commonwealth.