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Pa. courts banned legal addiction treatments

Plus, few Pa. schools take advantage of free COVID-19 testing.

A weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA

February 17, 2022 | spotlightpa.org

Court ordered, underutilized, editor intro, Mastriano subpoena, gun gaps, police slowdown, CRT bans, and a legal collapse draws lawsuits.
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After struggling with opioid addiction for more than a decade, Sonya Mosey was having success with buprenorphine, a medication that helps people reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

But when Mosey's court case was transferred to Jefferson County in 2018, the county's president judge, John H. Foradora, said Mosey would need to stop taking the legally prescribed, life-saving prescription drug or go to jail. 

The ultimatum set up a dangerous dilemma for someone with opioid use disorder. It's also illegal, according to a new warning from the Department of Justice that singles out Jefferson and Northumberland Counties but mentions six other courts statewide with similar policies in place

The DOJ says policies that ban FDA-approved and scientifically proven addiction treatments — including buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone — violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers people with opioid use disorder, Spotlight PA's Ed Mahon reports.  

Also this week, Jamie Martines reports that nearly six months into the school year, the majority of Pennsylvania schools have not opted in to a free, on-site COVID-19 testing program provided by the state health department.

Even during the omicron wave, only 750 of the state’s more than 5,000 charter, private, and public schools were enrolled as of Feb. 16. Roughly half of participating districts are actively testing. Others are still onboarding.

For some schools, the program has been a benefit and helped to identify asymptomatic carriers. But others say while good in theory, they simply don't have the bandwidth to pull it off. How testing is implemented differs by school.

And while the participation rate is twice what it was in the fall, state health officials say it's still too low. It's unclear if the program will return next year. 

Colin Deppen, Spotlight PA
"I would ask you to go ask the schools why they're not participating, why they're not doing their part to protect kids and teachers."

—Acting Pennsylvania Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter on the low sign-up rates dogging the state's free COVID-19 testing program for schools
» BALLOT BATTLE: Join us at 5 p.m. ET today via Zoom for a free Q&A on Pennsylvania's mail voting law, the ruling striking it down, and what's next. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org
» Free COVID-19 testing sites will open in McKean, Susquehanna, Washington, and York Counties in the coming weeks, for a total of nine statewide, Pennsylvania's Department of Health has announced.

» One of those nine sites is a ghost town. The state-backed testing site in Somerset County recently reported nonexistent demand, leaving some to wonder if free at-home tests have worked to lower demand.

» The Biden administration hasn't said what it's spending to offer four free COVID-19 at-home tests to every American household even though, as KHN reports, the law says that information should be readily available.

» The pandemic hit the hospitality industry harder than any other, and while doomsday predictions haven't exactly materialized, WHYY reports some segments of the industry fared better than others

» Philadelphia has dropped its vaccine mandate for indoor dining establishments but will keep its mask rule in place, per CBS3. The city is also offering $100 to people who get fully vaccinated.

» Keep up with our coronavirus tracker, or find where to get a vaccine.
» Spotlight PA launching first-ever regional bureau based in State College

» Pa. election 2022: Tell Spotlight PA what coverage matters to you

» Pennsylvania’s 2022 race for governor: What we know so far

» Pennsylvania’s 2022 U.S. Senate race: What we know so far
Meet the new editor leading Spotlight PA's dogged investigations team, Sarah Hutchins 

I’m Sarah Hutchins, Spotlight PA’s new investigations editor. I’ll be working with all of Spotlight’s reporters, especially the investigative journalists, on the newsroom’s highest-level projects.

I’ve been a journalist for a long time, dating back to my high school years in St. Louis, Missouri. I got my first journalism paycheck when, as a senior, I contributed reporting to a Newsweek magazine cover story about a kidnapping in my hometown

I went on to study journalism at Indiana University, where I worked for nearly every publication that would hire me. It’s also where I published my first data-driven investigation, a look at how local and campus police handle reports of sexual assault. Internships took me across the country (Tampa Bay Times in Florida) and around the world (a trade publication in London) before I landed at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. There, I chased a pair of serial arsonists across Virginia’s Eastern Shore, waded through the rubble of a Navy jet crash, and chronicled the struggles of a troubled public school system.

I approach editing with the mindset of a coach. Before joining Spotlight in January, I worked for Investigative Reporters & Editors, the country’s largest network of watchdog journalists. IRE is a nonprofit that provides professional development and training to journalists wanting to do more accountability-focused work. I wore several hats during my eight years at IRE, but all of them centered around serving as a coach for reporters and editors who needed guidance to grow their skills.

As an IRE training director, I provided one-on-one support to journalists who needed help developing a story idea, submitting a public records request, or analyzing data. I traveled to newsrooms across the country (pre-COVID) and taught workshops on how to find and analyze government data, skills new to many journalists. I also developed and managed IRE on Campus, a grant-funded training program aimed at improving diversity among journalism educators and students.

I also served as IRE’s first editorial director. Managing a team of freelancers, contractors, and journalism students — IRE is based at the University of Missouri — I produced a podcast (here are a few of my favorite episodes), a magazine, newsletters, and more.

Working with journalists across the country allowed me to have an impact in communities large and small. Now I’m excited to narrow my focus to Pennsylvania.

My mission at Spotlight PA is to help our talented team of journalists identify the issues people in power would rather see hidden, pry loose the facts, and tell the story in a way that makes it difficult to forget.

While most of my work happens behind the scenes, I’d love to hear from you. So share your story ideas, favorite PA recipes (I already tested this one), and any spots I should visit as I get to know Pennsylvania.

Sarah Hutchins, Spotlight PA

SIEGE SUBPOENA: State senator and candidate for governor Doug Mastriano was a key player in Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Now, Mastriano has been subpoenaed by a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The focus of the subpoena? A Republican-led alternate electors scheme.

GUN CHECKS: A state court has struck down a Philly ordinance that requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to the police, the ruling coming after a man faced a $2,000 fine for failing to do so. But a judge involved urged a higher court to reconsider a 1996 decision that served as the basis for this week's ruling against the local law.

WAIT TIMES: Philly police responses are taking 20% longer, on average, during the pandemic, per The Inquirer. This includes 90-minute waits for some domestic violence victims or, residents say, no response at all. The police union blames BLM protests for driving people away from the profession. Others point to widespread injury benefits abuse.

CRT BANS: The board of the Butler Area School District has adopted a resolution banning critical race theory in its schools, making it at least the second district in Western Pennsylvania to do so. But with CRT steeped in misinformation, PublicSource explains what it is and how it morphed from a niche academic topic to a "full-blown political rally cry."

CASE CRASH: Two men charged in a Wilkinsburg massacre that killed five people and an unborn child have sued Allegheny County, alleging their constitutional rights were violated by overzealous investigators. The suit comes two years after the cases against both men collapsed. Officials say the investigation into the 2016 mass shooting continues.

» CNHI: Pandemic-era unemployment fraud has cost Pa. $570M 

» FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Redlining’s Pa. legacy visible 50 years after ban

» NBC10: Philly Fighting COVID CEO barred from doing business in Pa.

» TRIBLIVE: Grand jury to probe death of Pa. man in police custody

» WTAE: Ex-coal miner job training program has languished for years
Send your answers to riddler@spotlightpa.org. Love the riddler? Chip in and become a member of Spotlight PA so we can keep the good times rolling.

CARD CASE (Case No. 134)Three playing cards are in a row. Can you name them with these clues? There is a two to the right of a king, a diamond to the left of a spade, an ace to the left of a heart, and a heart to the left of a spade.

*Hint: The clue doesn't necessarily mean to the immediate right or left. 

Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.

Last week's answer: Once (Find last week's clue here.)

Congrats to Daniel D., who will receive Spotlight PA swag. Others who answered correctly: Jonathan N., Annette I., Ed N., Michael H., Alice O., Judy A., Steve N., Donna D., George S., Ken S., Karen K., Fred O., Hagan H., Connie K., Susan N.-Z., Beth T., Bruce B., Joel S., Daniel L., Philip C., Geoffrey M., Elizabeth W., Doris T., Joseph M., William D., Roseanne D., Joan C., Dennis P., Eileen D., Don H., Johnny C., Mary B., Dennis F., Rebecca D., and Marisa B.
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