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Pa. courts banned lifesaving addiction meds

Plus, court strikes down Philly’s lost-or-stolen gun ordinance.


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February 15, 2022
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Legal notice, health-care convergence, struck down, Davidson fined, prison moms, help line, and an animal mystery is solved. It's Tuesday.
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Courts in Pennsylvania violated federal law by telling people to stop taking life-saving addiction medications, the Department of Justice recently warned. If the courts don't reverse course, legal consequences could follow. 

Two counties — Jefferson and Northumberland — were singled out in a DOJ letter sent to the state court system this month. But six other counties were flagged as having similarly "problematic policies" that prohibit or limit the use of legally prescribed medications for opioid use disorder.

Spotlight PA reports the policies caused at least two people under court supervision "significant harm" as they attempted to stop using the proven and scientifically accepted treatments. The DOJ says access must be allowed.

The letter marks the first time the DOJ has called this kind of ban a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers opioid dependency, attorney Rebekah Joab said, forecasting the possibility of DOJ investigations.

THE CONTEXT: In 2018, Jefferson County Judge John H. Foradora said people must be "completely clean" of methadone, buprenorphine, or any other opiate-based treatments within 30 days of being sentenced by him.

If not, they faced having their probation revoked, setting up a clear and dangerous dilemma: stop using the legal medication or risk going to jail.

Foradora claimed the medications are often abused and make "probationers ineffective and nearly impossible to manage."

But Dr. William Santoro, president of the Pennsylvania Society of Addiction Medicine, called the policy "short sighted" and akin to banning insulin.

For several years, Pennsylvania has had one the highest drug overdose death rates in the country. 
In appreciation of journalism. We cannot continue a civil society without a vigorous free press! With love, Mary G.

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"I am looking forward to working with the administration and other city leaders to lift up our great city..."

—Maria Montaño, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey's newly appointed press secretary and the first openly transgender woman to hold the role there
» TESTING SITES: Pennsylvania's Department of Health will be opening free COVID-19 testing sites in McKean, Susquehanna, Washington, and York Counties in the coming weeks, for a total of nine locations statewide.

» UNEVEN IMPACT: The pandemic hit the hospitality industry harder than any other, and while doomsday predictions haven't exactly materialized, WHYY reports some segments of the industry fared better than others. 

» SAFE SCHOOLS: "Threatening statements" led the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District to call an emergency virtual day on Monday for Conestoga High School, where a debate about masking rules has been raging.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» BALLOT BATTLE: Join us Thursday, Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on Pennsylvania's mail voting law, the ruling striking it down, and what's next. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org
High above Camp Hill with @yatsko. Thanks for sharing! Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
COMPANY TOWN: Once the "coal and coke capital of the world," Connellsville in Fayette County is now a battlefront for three competing health care systems looking for room to grow, the Post-Gazette reports. The mayor of Connellsville says a three-way expansion race between Excela, Penn Highlands, and WVU Medicine could make the city of roughly 7,500 a "health care hub in the near future."

MISSING GUNS: A state court has struck down a Philly ordinance that requires gun owners report lost or stolen firearms to the police, the ruling coming after a man was fined $2,000 for failing to do so, per The Inquirer. The ordinance was ruled illegal by a Commonwealth Court panel. But a judge on that panel urged the state Supreme Court to reconsider a 1996 ruling that cemented limits on such local statutes

EX-OFFICIAL FINED: Months after pleading guilty to theft and campaign finance violations that prompted her resignation, former Delaware County Democratic state lawmaker Margo Davidson was fined $150 on Monday by a judge in Harrisburg. Davidson's attorney said she's already paid more than $6,000 in restitution after double-dipping on reimbursements or taking taxpayer money for made-up expenses.

PRISON DOULAS: A Williamsport-based pregnancy care center is going inside Muncy's all-female state prison to offer doula services to incarcerated mothers, in partnership with the state departments of corrections and human services. Capital-Star reports the program will include support during births, postpartum periods, and after the women are released from confinement. There is talk of an expansion.

FARM AID: Pennsylvania has launched a new help line for farmers and workers in the state's massive agriculture industry, which has one of the highest suicide rates of any sector in the country. Most farmers also reside in rural areas where mental health services are less robust. WESA reports the help line operates 24/7, is free of charge, and is available in 160 languages. The number is 833-897-AGRI (2474). 
CHAPTER ONE: The Inquirer's A More Perfect Union series will trace the roots of systemic racism in America to the institutions founded in Philadelphia. Chapter One is a look at The Inquirer itself, written independently by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery and edited by Errin Haines.

ERA OVER: Bethlehem's historic Boyd Theatre is coming down. WFMZ reports an apartment complex is set to replace the theater, which dated back the vaudeville era and closed in 2011 due to weather damage.

PAWPAW PATROL: While I have eaten many Pennsylvania peaches in my day (they're the best), I have never had a Pennsylvania pawpaw. This 2019 Gastropod episode makes me think I'm really missing out

NEWLY WED: Ralph Samuels of Lancaster County was lonely after his wife of 45 years died in 2019. Then a rain storm brought Linda Meents into the church where Samuels was singing, and now he's newly married at the age of 91.

COYOTE PROOF: The DNA test results are in and the mystery animal that escaped from a Westmoreland County shelter last month is 100% a coyote, Lizzo TribLIVE reports. There have been no sightings since the escape.
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.

*This week's theme: Performing arts

Yesterday's answer: Proscenium

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Susan N.-Z., Becky C., Karen W., Doris T., Bonnie R., Kimberly S., Elaine C., Susan D., George S., Don H., Suzanne S., Dianne K., Bill S., David W., Pat B., and Kim C.
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