|Thank You, Veterans!
On Saturday Oct. 27, I hosted a pancake breakfast at the Penn State Fayette Auxiliary Gym to honor all area veterans.
Our veterans have sacrificed so much to ensure we can remain a free nation. It is important to honor not only our local veterans, but all veterans who have and continue to serve the United States. May God bless them and their families.
New State Program Awarded Safety Grants to Area School Districts
I announced this week that multiple area school districts each received a $25,000 state grant for continued school safety improvements to keep their students safe from harm.
When we send our children to school, we send them there with the expectation they will be in a safe place. In using this grant money, our school districts can continue to live up to that expectation by purchasing things such as metal detectors, hiring school safety officers and putting into effect better and more efficient safety policies.
Local grant recipients include Connellsville Area School District, Frazier School District, Laurel Highlands School District, Southmoreland School District and Uniontown Area School District.
The School Safety and Security Grant Program was created by lawmakers earlier this year to provide grants to school districts, intermediate units, area vocational-technical schools, charter schools and private residential rehabilitative institutions for a wide variety of projects to improve school safety.
Eligible uses for the grants include hiring school security officers, purchasing security-related technology, completing safety and security assessments, implementing violence prevention curricula, offering counseling services for students, and creating other programs to protect students.
The new program was created as part of a comprehensive school safety bill that was signed into law in June. More than $60 million in new funding was dedicated in the current year’s budget to improve school safety.
New EpiPen Law Will Save Lives
My EpiPen legislation, which will expand the availability of life-saving epinephrine auto-injectors, has been signed into law.
One of the most basic responsibilities of government is to help keep people safe. By making it possible for a variety of organizations to keep EpiPens on hand, this new law will most certainly help save lives across the Commonwealth.
Initially, I proposed allowing state or local police departments to carry, administer or assist in the administration of epinephrine auto-injectors after my 4-year-old son suffered a severe allergic reaction to a cashew he touched. Police arrived first in response to our 9-1-1 call, but there was nothing they could do until an ambulance arrived.
If police can carry NARCAN to help save the life of a person who is overdosing on opioids, it makes sense to me that they should also be permitted by law to carry medication necessary to save the life of a child or adult suffering a severe allergic reaction.
Recognizing the alarming increase in food allergies, House Bill 126, now Act 93 of 2018, also extends the authority to have EpiPens on hand to entities such as summer camps, colleges and universities, restaurants, amusement parks, sport facilities, daycares and other facilities.
The new law also addresses another important effort to save lives by ensuring fair access to clinical trials for cancer patients by clarifying the difference between what is considered an “inducement” to a patient to participate in a cancer clinical trial and reimbursement of expenses for participating in a clinical trial.
This is a necessary distinction because studies have shown households making less than $50,000 annually were almost 30 percent less likely to participate in clinical trials due to the expenses that go along with participation. While it is unethical to induce someone into participating in a clinical trial, any cancer patient facing this terminal illness should not be precluded from trying a treatment that could save or prolong their life because they can’t afford things like transportation, lodging or child care to participate in the trial.
Some corporations, individuals, public and private foundations, health care providers, and other stakeholders are hesitant to contribute to, or accept funds from, programs that are organized to alleviate financial burdens faced by patients who wish to participate in clinical trials and their caregivers, due to concerns that the FDA and or other federal regulators would view the payments made from those funds as prohibited inducements for patients to receive the health care services provided during clinical trials.
It is perfectly appropriate for trial participants to be reimbursed for their expenses, and I’m pleased this new law will help open the door to potentially life-saving treatment to more Pennsylvanians.
Turn Those Clocks Back This Weekend
Daylight saving time will end at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4, and Pennsylvania residents will be turning their clocks back one hour before going to bed on Saturday night.
Experts recommend using this reminder to check or change the batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms should be replaced every 10 years and located near bedrooms and on each level of the residence.
Fighting Opioid Abuse
A new law that requires opioids to be prescribed electronically will bring consistency in the way prescriptions are filled and will also prevent the fraudulent use of prescription pads to fuel the opioid crisis.
At one time, written prescriptions were the safest form of prescribing opioids, which state law required. Since that time and the rise of the opioid epidemic, providers’ prescription pads have been stolen, leading to fraudulent use and driving fake prescriptions for the addictive drug.
Act 96 of 2018 (formerly House Bill 353) will make it more difficult to have fake prescriptions filled, while also making it more convenient for patients who have a legitimate need for the medication. Currently, most medications are prescribed electronically.
Another benefit of e-prescribing is that the prescription can be tracked directly by the state’s prescription drug monitoring database to help ensure only those who have a legitimate medical need for these prescriptions can access them.
Assistance for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Now Law
Two new laws signed by the governor will assist grandparents raising their grandchildren and help them better access both private and public resources.
House Bill 2133, now Act 89 of 2018, will establish the Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program, an informational resource for these grandparents that will operate both as a website and a toll-free hotline.
The website will offer information on support and services available, and a specially trained navigator through the hotline will be able to provide support and guidance to kinship caregivers, and serve as a mediator to establish relationships between kinship caregivers and relevant federal, state and local agency staff.
The cost to state taxpayers will be greatly reduced, as the Commonwealth just received $479,307 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families to develop the program.
Another measure to help grandchildren, House Bill 1539, now Act 88 of 2018, will allow grandparents to have temporary guardianship when the parents of the grandchildren are unable to care for them primarily due to substance abuse issues.
An estimated 82,000 grandparents are the sole caregivers for the nearly 89,000 grandchildren in Pennsylvania.
Governor’s Vetoes Perplex Lawmakers
The governor’s decision to veto important cost-saving and education measures last week has perplexed lawmakers.
The bills would have dramatically reduced the state’s debt (House Bill 83), required the Department of Human Services to institute work requirements for Medical Assistance recipients (House Bill 2138), and expanded career and technical education (CTE) opportunities for students across Pennsylvania (House Bill 2157).
Specifically, both House Bill 83 and House Bill 2157 passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate. House Bill 83 could have reduced outstanding general obligation debt by $1 billion over 20 years, and House Bill 2157 would have made it easier for schools to establish and renew vocational programs.
This is the second time that Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed work requirements for able-bodied individuals on Medical Assistance, even though work requirements are in place for food stamp assistance.
All three bills are expected to be reintroduced in the new 2019-20 legislative session.