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PA’s woefully slow elder abuse investigations

Plus, panel guts nurse practitioner bill to give it rural scope.

This is The Investigator, a free weekly newsletter with the top news from across Pennsylvania.
A weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.

July 4, 2024 | spotlightpa.org

Most of Pennsylvania’s 52 county agencies responsible for protecting older adults are failing to swiftly review complaints of suspected abuse or neglect, some taking five or more times the mandated 20 days for determinations.

There has been a simultaneous and staggering increase in the number of older Pennsylvanians who have died during an open case of suspected abuse or neglect, according to a new Spotlight PA investigation. 

Also this week, the Pennsylvania legislature has yet to complete this year's budget, though top lawmakers are optimistic a deal is within grasp

Finally, a long-awaited constitutional amendment that would give survivors of childhood sexual abuse a chance to sue their abusers will not be on the November ballot unless lawmakers advance it in the next month.

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There are more than a million unpaid caregivers in Pennsylvania fulfilling vital and complex health care roles for loved ones, often with no training and few resources. You may be one. You may know one. Data show many of us will become one.

Spotlight PA's newest weekly newsletter, How We Care, provides original reporting, guidance, and resources to empower home as well as professional caregivers across Pennsylvania. Sign up here.


SPECIAL EVENT: Join us Tuesday, July 9 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a one-on-one interview with author Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, whose new book explores how the urban-rural divide in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. is vastly overstated. Become a member to join this exclusive event.

ROCKY WATERS: Join us Thursday, July 18 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a live panel on Pennsylvania’s private water industry, how it is regulated, and how communities are affected when service is subpar. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.


» ADHD patients in Pa. struggle to find medication and maintain normalcy amid ongoing shortage

» School vouchers may make it into Pennsylvania’s budget. What would they really do?

Bill that would give nurse practitioners more authority limited to rural Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania Senate panel has advanced a bill that would grant nurse practitioners the ability to treat patients without physician oversight — but only those who work in rural counties.

Nurse practitioners receive advanced clinical training that emphasizes preventative care. They are more specialized than registered nurses, but existing state law requires them to partner with a doctor, in what is commonly called a collaborative agreement.

Spotlight PA recently reported on the decadelong debate in Harrisburg over granting full practice authority to the thousands of nurse practitioners statewide.

Advocates who support removing the restriction have argued that giving nurse practitioners more leeway would expand access to health care, especially in rural areas. Meanwhile, doctors who oppose removing the requirement have noted the difference in training between themselves and nurse practitioners.

As lawmakers remain in Harrisburg for budget negotiations, the state Senate’s Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure this week approved legislation that would give more freedom to nurse practitioners.

As introduced, the proposal would offer full practice authority to nurse practitioners statewide after they fulfill a three-year, 3,600-hour collaborative agreement. But Republicans amended it in committee to apply only to practitioners working in rural counties.

The bill uses the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s definition of rural: places where the population density is fewer than 291 people per square mile. Pennsylvania’s 48 rural counties are home to more than 3 million people.

Every Democrat on the panel opposed the amended version, including state Sen. Lisa Boscola (D., Lehigh), who sponsored the bill alongside state Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R., Washington).

Bartolotta doesn’t sit on the committee that advanced the proposal and didn’t comment on the amendment. In a statement, she noted that the bill could boost access to care in rural areas.

“In rural counties, people must travel significantly farther to access care and there is rarely public transportation,” she said. “It can be very difficult and even impossible for people to access the health care they need, particularly as people age and tend to need care more often.”

The proposal now awaits a vote from the full state Senate. Marley Parish, Spotlight PA

Correction: Last week's Investigator misstated the university for which Joshua Cowen works. He is a professor at Michigan State University.

🤔 NEXT QUESTION: Are you on top of the news? Prove it with the latest edition of the Great PA News Quiz: SCOTUS rulings, summer Olympics, and state budget work

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» CAP-STAR: State House advances same-sex marriage equality bill 

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» PENNLIVE: Dauphin Co. names ex-staffer as temporary clerk of courts 

» TRIBLIVE: Washington Co. didn't allow mail voters to fix errors: suit

» WITF: As gun violence drops sharply in Pa., focus is on what’s working 

» WVIA: Appeals court rules against House District 117 incumbent

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HOLD PLEASE (Case No. 263)You can hold it without using your hands or your arms. What is it?
Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.

Last week's answer: A stapler. Find last week's clue here

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