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State failure led some to be denied drug treatment

Plus, a Philly-area state rep was attacked in jail.

A weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA

September 30, 2021 | spotlightpa.org

Missing guidance, PSERS update, dwindling funds, extended waivers, election changes, finding a booster, lawmaker assault, and Greene County's woes.
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Earlier this year, Spotlight PA's Ed Mahon got a tip from a woman whose son, Tyler Cordeiro, had died from an overdose.

As Mahon discovered, Cordeiro was wrongly denied addiction treatment funding just weeks before his death in October 2020 because of his medical marijuana card. The issue stemmed from confusion over federal funding rules.

In a new follow-up investigation, Mahon details how the state received guidance in January 2020 that would have clarified that Cordeiro was eligible for funding. But for 17 months, the Wolf administration didn’t communicate the change with local drug and alcohol offices directly responsible for delivering services to Pennsylvanians.
Also this week, our Angela Couloumbis has the latest on a widening probe into Pennsylvania's embattled school pension fund. A new subpoena from the SEC demands records that could show whether the fund’s staff improperly traded gifts with any of hundreds of Wall Street consultants and investment managers.

Finally, Philadelphia is quickly running out of rental assistance money, Spotlight PA's Charlotte Keith and The Inquirer report. Even with another $35 million on the way, the city needs another $276 million to cover the pipeline of existing applications.
With so much on the line this fall — from redistricting to voting reforms to the GOP's review of the 2020 election — Spotlight PA's tough, nonpartisan journalism is more vital than ever. Give now and we'll DOUBLE it »

"I don’t hear anybody here saying, 'You know what? I want to throw my election to the wind because I believe something wasn’t right.'"

—Democratic state Rep. Scott Conklin to his Republican colleagues as they advanced a proposal that would give voters the opportunity to change how elections are run here
COVID-19 UPDATES: A Reading nurse and Mount Holly Springs' mayor ask people to get vaccinated as their dying wishes; a federal court rejects request from Pennsylvania parents to exempt their kids from the mask rule; and child cases are starting to surge in Pennsylvania as Pfizer says its vaccine is safe for kids between the ages of 5 to 11.
» CRISIS OF CARE: Join us Friday, Oct. 8 at noon ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on rising rates of Alzheimer's disease in Pennsylvania, the barriers to care, and the solutions urged by advocates. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
» COVID-19 INFO: Keep up with our coronavirus tracker, or find where to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

» At last minute, Pa. lawmakers vote to extend dozens of COVID-19 waivers

» To avoid Wolf’s veto, Pa. GOP proposes giving voters final say on stricter ID rules, other election changes

Need a COVID-19 booster? Here’s how to get one. 

Anywhere from one to two million Pennsylvania adults are now eligible for a COVID-19 booster, and state officials say it should be easier to track down the third dose than it was to secure initial shots earlier this year.

People 65 and older, those with certain medical conditions, and workers in high-risk jobs who received a second Pfizer dose more than six months ago are now eligible to receive a booster. (Get more eligibility details from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.)

If you received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, you’ll have to wait for guidance.

Vaccines are now widely available, and it’s not likely providers will experience the same backups and shortages seen across the state when eligibility first opened up to all adults in April, state officials have said.

Many retail pharmacies, like Rite-Aid or CVS, along with grocery stores and independent pharmacies, now have same-day and walk-in appointments for first, second, and booster shots available. Health systems like UPMC, Allegheny Health Network, Penn State Health, and Geisinger are also administering boosters, along with other local health clinics and doctors’ offices.

You do not have to return to the same location where you received your first or second booster shots for your third dose. Search for locations offering COVID-19 vaccines near you, or anywhere in the country, on the CDC’s website at vaccines.gov.

Most nursing homes will handle boosters through existing relationships with local vaccine providers, a state health department spokesperson said. The health department will assist any nursing home that is not yet connected with a local vaccine provider or pharmacy secure booster shots.

Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam ordered vaccine providers on Sept. 21 to not only provide online scheduling for booster appointments, but also to provide a telephone number that connects callers to a live agent to assist with scheduling. Vaccine providers were also ordered to offer walk-in appointments.

Local Area Agencies on Aging, along with Medical Assistance Managed Care Organizations, were ordered to help schedule eligible adults and people who can’t leave their homes — a role those organizations took up earlier this year, as many older adults and others who had trouble navigating the competitive vaccine sign-up system struggled to find appointments.

State officials recommend that anyone who has questions about whether they are eligible for a booster shot consult with their doctor before making an appointment.

Anyone receiving a booster should bring their vaccine card to the booster appointment. The provider will check to make sure that it has been at least six months since you’ve received your second shot, and that you previously received the Pfizer vaccine. Jamie Martines, Spotlight PA
REPORTED ASSAULT: Philadelphia officials are investigating an alleged jail assault against state Rep. Kevin Boyle, who was arrested for violating a protection from abuse order. "He allegedly was hungry and ate one of the other guys’ food," a source told The Inquirer. Boyle was previously stripped of committee leadership and Capitol access.

'CRISIS SITUATION': Greene County saw the greatest population drop in southwest Pennsylvania over the past decade, and officials say the area has failed to replace jobs lost during the decline of the coal industry. The Post-Gazette finds that the region's suburbs, meanwhile, have grown thanks to Pittsburgh's "eds and meds" economy. 

DEPARTURES: Pennsylvania's two largest cities are searching for new school superintendents. Billy Penn reports that William Hite will leave the School District of Philadelphia at the end of the academic year, while Pittsburgh's Anthony Hamlet has resigned following an ethics inquiry.

CANCELED: The company behind a proposed natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey has canceled the project, the Associated Press reports. PennEast Pipeline Company recently won a Supreme Court case but determined the project "no longer is supported."

TRUST THE PROCESS: The state Senate is advancing legislation to improve transparency and training in the state's constitutional amendment process, per the Capital-Star. The measures come in response to "internal systemic failures" within the Department of State that derailed a statewide referendum for survivors of child sexual abuse

» AP: Mask opt-out bill for students clears Senate committee

» CAPITAL-STAR: Millions in student loan relief for Pa. nurses coming

» INQUIRER: Doylestown woman pleads guilty to Capitol riot charges

» NBC10: Officers returning gunfire likely killed child during H.S. game

» WNEP: Teens charged for plotting mass murder
Send your answers to riddler@spotlightpa.org. Love the riddler? Chip in to support Spotlight PA now and we'll DOUBLE it.

STRANGE ANIMAL (Case No. 112)What is 3/7 chicken, 2/3 cat, and 2/4 goat?

Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.
Last week's answer: The person was born in 2005 BC. (Find last week's clue here.)

Congrats to Joe S., who will receive Spotlight PA swag. Others who answered correctly: Michael H., Philip C., Susan N-Z., Joel S., William D., Ed N., Jon N., Beth T., George S., Annette I., Gene, Jeffrey F., Fred O., Mary B., Kyle C., Ken S., edewald777, and Dennis F.
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