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Climate change report predicts 'dire' Pa. impacts


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
May 7, 2021
Addiction oversight, police case, high heat, class action, board vacancies, work rules, and a towering artistic achievement in Philly. Guess what? It's Friday.

Pennsylvania regulators can't levy financial penalties against addiction treatment facilities that break state rules, and some lawmakers in Harrisburg say it's time to change that amid mounting evidence that a lack of consequences for the industry has led to dire ones for clients.

Against that backdrop and the ongoing opioid epidemic, a legislative effort is being mounted that would give Pennsylvania's Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs power to fine licensed facilities when violations are uncovered, Spotlight PA reports.

"If you're going too fast, you're going to get stopped, and you're going to get fined, and it changes behavior," state Rep. Mark Gillen (R., Berks) explained of the push, using a speed-limit analogy. 

Currently, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs inspectors can issue citations and require providers to submit plans of correction, but they can’t fine facilities for violations — a tool some in the industry say could weed out bad actors and prevent ongoing harm. 

THE CONTEXT: Lawmakers created the department a decade ago to give substance use the attention they believed it deserved. But a recent Spotlight PA/KHN investigation found the department’s oversight focuses more on basic regulations than quality of care, and it has limited powers to punish facilities.

The department can issue provisional licenses — a designation indicating a provider failed to meet several state requirements — tell a facility to reduce the number of clients it serves, or attempt to permanently revoke a license. But strong disciplinary action is rarely taken, the investigation found.

In fact, the $431 million agency in charge of inspecting more than 800 treatment centers statewide has revoked just one provider’s license since 2012.

But while lawmakers tout fine-issuing authority as a necessary remedy, some in the treatment industry warn that heavy-handed enforcement could come at the expense of vital services and further endanger clients.

"As lawmakers and the media seek to punish providers, it is those most in need of a system that will accept them who are ultimately going to be hurt the worst," Jason Snyder of The Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association said.

AN UNPRECEDENTED EFFORT: Hundreds of your friends and neighbors have stepped up to support the hard-hitting, nonpartisan investigative journalism that Spotlight PA produces like no one else.

And now we have big news: The Lenfest Institute for Journalism has just offered an additional $5,000 challenge grant, meaning, for a limited time, all gifts of any amount up to $20,000 will be DOUBLED.

If you're a fan of PA Post, will you pay it forward and support Spotlight PA's vital journalism today? Contribute now »»

» THANK YOU to the 58 people who contributed to our Spring membership drive yesterday.

"Honestly, I’m not sure who to blame for this, and that’s why I’m asking questions."

—U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) on U.S. Steel's nixing of a planned $1 billion-plus upgrade at its Pittsburgh-area plants

VACCINE UPDATE: The number of Pennsylvanians getting their first COVID-19 vaccine shot dropped 93% from last month to an all-time low, the Post-Gazette reports. State officials must contend with the trend if they hope to meet the Wolf administration's 70% fully vaccinated benchmark. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» 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.
New spring leaves photographed behind the Thompson-Neely House & Farmstead in New Hope. Thanks, Suzanne F. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
RAP SHEET: Philadelphia paid at least $271,000 to settle lawsuits against a city detective now charged in a naked and armed off-duty confrontation last December. The Inquirer dug into Detective Robert Redanauer's past and found a history of violence, misconduct, and a long paper trail of harm.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Pennsylvania could be nearly six degrees hotter on average by 2050, according to a new report from the state's Department of Environmental Protection. That’s half a degree hotter than predicted six years ago. StateImpact notes the worst-case scenario model also includes more frequent heat waves and severe weather.

CLASS ACTION: A new federal lawsuit says the company hired to handle COVID-19 contact tracing in Pennsylvania was aware of lapses that jeopardized private information for 72,000 people but failed to act, TribLIVE reports. The suit names the company, Insight Global, and Pennsylvania's Department of Health as defendants.

SPRING CLEANING: Pennsylvania's newest political battleground is the state Charter Appeals Board, a quasi-functional entity tasked with hearing challenges of charter school-related decisions made by local school boards. WHYY reports Gov. Tom Wolf appears to be cleaning house, prompting state Republicans to argue he's overstepped his authority.

WORK SEARCH: GOP lawmakers in Harrisburg are advancing legislation to reinstate unemployment work-search requirements tabled during the pandemic. Wolf’s office did not say if he supports or opposes the bill, which cleared a House committee on a party-line vote this week, per the AP. The bill would reinstate the requirements starting June 8.
TALK RADIO: Spotlight PA's Ed Mahon and KHN's Aneri Pattani spoke to Wake Up With WURD about detailing the human costs of a lack of oversight at Pennsylvania addiction treatment centers. Read their deep-dive here.

CON ARTIST: A story about a Picasso sketch that went missing en route to Philadelphia, shared here earlier this week, has been retracted. Billy Penn says the main source was an imposter and it's unclear the drawing exists.

REAL REFUGE: Ali R. Abdullah's grandparents helped turn 1930s Pittsburgh into a hotspot for African-American Islam, PublicSource reports. Now he's uncovering that history and all of its complexities.

FAB FIVE: Centre County's Windswept Farm has its hands full this season with a rare delivery of lamb quintuplets. Luckily, the farm's manager tells Centre Daily Times, lambs are "smaller than cattle and less cunning than goats."

ART SHOW: The Philadelphia Museum of Art will unveil a renovation by famed architect Frank Gehry today — one decades in the making. The Inquirer got an early look and grabbed a video.
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: Cafeteria

Congrats to our daily winners: Neal W., Dixie S., Craig W., Irene R., Susan D., Mike B., Karen A., David I., Becky C., Joel S., William P., Al M., Elaine C., Beth T., Christine M., Bill C., Kim C., Kate P., Don H., Brandie K., Dennis M., Brian B., Suzanne S., Mike B., James B., Karen W., George S., Mary Kay M., Steve D., Richard D., Myles M., Michelle T., Bob R., David W., Elizabeth W., Mary Ellen T., Aaron T., George W., and Betsy R.


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