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Turned away from addiction treatment in Pa.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
June 29, 2021
Late guidance, budget compromise, PSERS report, eviction outlook, at-home medicine, jury trial, and the heat is on. It's Tuesday, thanks for checking in.
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Susan Ousterman was desperate.

Her son, Tyler Cordeiro, needed addiction treatment. He had recently lost Medicaid coverage, so Ousterman turned to a Pennsylvania helpline that promises trained workers will “get you or your loved one into treatment, regardless of your access to insurance.”

But Ousterman and her daughter, Mary Cordeiro, said they ran into an unexpected barrier, Spotlight PA reports: Tyler's medical marijuana card, which he was told made him ineligible for that funding assistance.

Weeks after being turned away, and with his mother still searching for options, Tyler walked to a gas station near his mother's Bensalem home, entered the bathroom, and fatally overdosed.

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania was the first state in the nation to include opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, which inadvertently set up the potential for those in need, like Tyler, to later be denied crucial help.

In 2019, a federal agency told addiction treatment grant recipients that “funds may not be used, directly or indirectly, to purchase, prescribe, or provide marijuana or treatment using marijuana.”

The agency also warned that the money could not be provided to any person or organization that “permits marijuana use for the purposes of treating substance use or mental disorders.”

As a result, some of Pennsylvania's 47 county drug and alcohol offices began restricting financial support to those card-holders. But the ban wasn’t as wide-reaching as it seemed.

In fact, people like Tyler are eligible for federal funding. The feds released clarifying guidance in January 2020, but officials with Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs didn’t send out a public information bulletin with that updated information until nearly a year-and-half later.
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"We don’t have a bill to look at. We’ve got a framework and many very large important parts are completely undefined is just a line on a piece of paper." 

—U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) says he will vote against a bipartisan infrastructure plan if it includes a tax hike or undoes Trump-era tax cuts

VACCINE UPDATE: How close did Pennsylvania get to the 70% fully vaccinated threshold it wanted to see before Monday's rollback of the statewide mask mandate? Roughly 10 percentage points, per WPXI. As of Tuesday, nearly 60% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated, with 75% of adults having received at least one dose. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
Wykoff Run is seen running in this photo submitted by PA Poster Don H. Thanks, as always, for sharing! Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
TRADE-OFF: The budget deal between Gov. Tom Wolf and Republicans was sealed by a trade-off, one involving a $100 million injection of cash into Pennsylvania’s poorest public schools in exchange for the governor backing off a regulatory expansion of eligibility for overtime pay, the AP reports. The budget also includes some industry-specific tax breaks, but PennLive says they could have been much larger.

PSERS REPORT: A $400,000 consultant report on "governance" at the embattled PSERS pension fund recommends giving more power to the same managers some trustees wanted to oust, The Inquirer reports. The report was meant to help reach a compromise between two halves of the $64 billion pension fund's fractured board, but only reinforced the divide and gave new ammunition to both sides. 

FUTURE EVICTIONS: On the heels of the Biden administration announcing its last-ever extension of the federal pandemic-era eviction ban, WESA looks at what might happen in Pennsylvania when the moratorium expires for good on July 31. Advocates want more time, noting slow disbursements of federal rent relief dollars, Pennsylvania's high housing costs, and other factors putting the odds against scores of renters.

HOME RULE: Pennsylvania's medical marijuana law is getting an update, with pandemic-tailored rules becoming permanent and rules for industry workers with criminal convictions being loosened. But patients demanding the right to grow their own (Pennsylvania's medical marijuana is some of the nation's costliest) are outraged the GOP scuttled a proposal that would have let them do that, the Capital-Star reports. 

NOT GUILTY: The former Derry mayor charged with pointing a gun at a group of children in a Westmoreland County park has been acquitted on all charges by a jury. Police said Kevin Gross pulled the gun after his son got into a scuffle with an older boy. The defense said Gross pointed the weapon at the ground to try to get control of the situation, which he believed involved a knife, per TribLIVE.
SLOW REDRESS: Sophia Tetoff was 12 years old when she was taken from an orphanage in Alaska to a boarding school for indigenous youth in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She later died there, along with at least 188 other Native American children. Some of their bones are being unearthed in an attempt to atone for a painful legacy, the Washington Post reports. Sophia's remains were wrapped in a fur seal pelt for the long journey home.

HIGH HEAT: "Extreme," "scorching," and "torrential" are all adjectives being used to describe Pennsylvania's weather this week, which includes a heatwave and the possibility of heavy downpours near the weekend, AccuWeather says. While you're here, help settle a running debate in my household: Does "turn down the air conditioner" mean make the setting warmer or colder? Reply to this email and vindicate me, please.

YOUTH OF THE YEAR: Congratulations to Princess Lovett, a Reading teenager who's been named the Boys and Girls Clubs of America's Youth of the Year for Pennsylvania. Lovett was recognized, in part, for helping other kids navigate online learning during the pandemic, saying of the accolade, "This is so special to me, my family, and our club," per the Reading Eagle. 

MAPLE MUSEUM: Somerset County has given the green light to a new showcase of Pennsylvania’s maple syrup industry, the Daily American reports. Turns out Somerset is the state’s largest maple-producing county and has a maple sugaring history dating back to the 1760s. The exhibit will be created by historians inside the 4,000-square-foot Hoffman Memorial Hall.

REALITY CHECK: The words "Allez Wawa" etched into a French field by a tractor and seen worldwide by viewers of the Tour de France have nothing to do with the Delco chain. Instead, Billy Penn explains, "it references [a Tour de France racer] who seems to be neither a deli nor a gas station." 
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: Pyrotechnics (also accepted: phenocrystic)

Congrats to our daily winners: David I., Neal W., Michelle T., Bruce T., Susan D., Myles M., Karen W., Becky C., Heidi B., Wendy A., Suzanne S., Elaine C., Craig W., Don H., Barbara A., George S., Dianne K., Dennis M., David W., Brian B., Elizabeth W., Irene R., Mary Ellen T., Craig E., Bob R., Judy M., and Ron P.
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