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COVID-19 diagnoses exposed in major breach


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
April 30, 2021
Recovery homes, data breach, guaranteed income, foreclosure freeze, policing politics, toll vote, and we're all driving too fast. It's Friday. Say hey.
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Pennsylvania regulators are pursuing new rules for the state's sprawling and unchecked network of addiction recovery houses, saying lives are at stake. But there is broad disagreement over how to proceed while avoiding unintended consequences for the people who call these houses home, Spotlight PA reports.

Pushback from groups like the Pennsylvania Recovery Organizations Alliance led the Wolf administration to withdraw a plan in March that would have required recovery house operators to pay more than $10,000 annually to be licensed through a forthcoming state program.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is still preparing to roll out the licensing system this year, and officials haven’t committed to any specific changes.

But recovery house advocates warn that if participation and compliance prove too costly, more people could be pushed from homes offering a safe, drug-and-alcohol-free environment and into the streets. 

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania's recovery homes have operated without state oversight for years despite a 2017 law that gave the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs new power to license them.

It already oversees licensed addiction treatment facilities, but as a Spotlight PA/KHN investigation found, the agency lacks resources and regulatory power.

Now, with the department focused on unregulated recovery homes, advocates warn too much oversight could pose similar risks as too little.

"It’s sort of like a Goldilocks situation," William Stauffer, executive director of the Pennsylvania Recovery Organizations Alliance, explained.

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"People want us to govern. That’s what I believe the autopsy is: You’ve got to do your job."

—U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D., Pa.) on the battle ahead as Pennsylvania prepares to lose a congressional seat and redraw its political maps
VACCINE UPDATE: Pennsylvania has added more than 150 COVID-19 vaccine providers to the statewide supply chain, bringing the total up to 383 from 225 last week. The move comes as demand for the vaccine slows and state officials work to grow supply in hard-to-reach areas. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» A LIVE GUIDE TO THE MAY PRIMARY: On Tuesday, May 4 at 5 p.m., join Spotlight PA as we break down the judicial candidates and four questions you’ll see on the primary ballot. RSVP FOR FREE
» BE PREPARED: Everyone — regardless of political affiliation — can vote May 18 on four ballot questions. Here's a breakdown of each one. Plus, WHYY has a great primer on the appellate court judge candidates. We'll have more resources in the days and weeks ahead.
Mapleton Overlook along the Standing Stone Trail in Huntingdon County. Thanks for sharing, @pabucketlist! Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
DATA BREACH: The private information of at least 72,000 people was compromised by employees of a vendor paid to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing in Pennsylvania, the Associated Press reports. The information includes exposure status and sexual orientation. State officials are "dismayed" and urging a forensic examination.

INCOME IDEA: Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse wants to use federal COVID-19 relief money to bankroll a guaranteed income program for the city’s poorest residents, per PennLive. Currently just a campaign pledge, the idea includes monthly payments for up to two years to residents living below yet-to-be-determined thresholds.

PRESS PAUSE: A court has halted sheriff sales of distressed and foreclosed-on properties in Philadelphia until September while waiting for a new wave of federal mortgage relief to reach the city. The move has the support of Philadelphia City Council and Sheriff Rochelle Bilal, who said a pause was "in the public's best interest."

POLICE CHASE: The race for Pittsburgh mayor is very much about the police this time around, with incumbent Bill Peduto’s record under intense scrutiny following months of protest. The Appeal reports Peduto is facing what may be his most competitive race yet, and the city's crackdowns on demonstrators are part of the conversation. 

ROAD BUMP: Republicans in Pennsylvania's Senate have passed a bill that would halt the governor's plan to toll nine bridges to raise money for their upkeep. KDKA-TV notes the bill's shelf-life could be short, with the GOP lacking the numbers needed to overcome Wolf's veto pen.

AGE GAP: The Democratic primary for Pitcairn mayor is pitting one of the oldest mayors in Pennsylvania against a challenger who, if elected, would be the youngest mayor in the state. Twenty-year-old Mika Petrosky is running against 81-year-old incumbent Margaret Stevick, TribLIVE reports. 

SPEED LIMITS: Pittsburgh wants Pennsylvania to change how it sets speed limits and give cities more power to lower limits on their own, per KDKA-TV. The state uses the so-called "85th percentile rule" to set them now, a flawed metric Grist says lets drivers dictate how fast they want to go.

TAKE TWO: Philadelphia's Four Seasons Total Landscaping is still leaning into its Trump-found fame, tweeting about the raid at Rudy Giuliani's home this week and, true to form, deploying another rapid-response T-shirt team. There's also a documentary in the works, PhillyVoice explains.

SMOKE-FREE: Smoking was banned in Pennsylvania casinos during the pandemic, and anti-smoking advocates want it to stay that way, per FOX43. While gambling revenue plummeted last year, smoking foes say a ban might actually help long-term, with demand for smoke-free spaces growing. 

PRETZEL-VANIA: Pennsylvania is a pretzel powerhouse, producing about 80% of all pretzels sold in the U.S., per the Morning Call. How did it come to this? NPR took a trip to York County — the "Snack Food Capital of the World" — in 2019 to find out.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Hypothesis

Congrats to our daily winners: Mary Ellen T., Becky C., Ben S., Bill C., Craig W., Theodore W., Irene R., Ed S., Tom L., Kim C., Susan D., Keith F., Dixie S., Adrien M., Elaine C., Jill M., Jennifer C., Mike B., Patricia R., Steve D., Suzanne S., Al M., Christine M., Dennis M., Michelle T., George S., Sue B., Beth T., Carol D., Dianne K., Joel S., James B., Anna T., Karen W., Meg M., Mary Kay M., Diane P., Richard D., Jimmy N., Bob R., Chris R., Paul H., Christine M., David W., Elizabeth W., Myles M., and Joe A.
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