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A life vs. death debate for PA's opioid millions

Plus, pronatalist candidate Collins responds.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Thursday, May 30, 2024
Today: Drug deaths, viral profile, power up, fracking element, Senate strategy?, and Josh Gibson makes history (again). Thanks for checking in.

Chester, Lawrence, and Lehigh Counties reported earmarking a combined $195,600 in opioid settlement shares for their coroners last year, but some advocates want that money to aid people living with addiction instead.

A debate continues over how shares of historic legal settlements with companies that fueled the opioid epidemic should be used, and in this case, whether coroners even qualify under the terms outlined.
Some observers say coroners have shouldered a heavy burden during an overdose epidemic that claims thousands of lives in Pennsylvania each year, while also gleaning data that can drive policy discussions.

But coroners also play a key role in drug-related prosecutions, and some critics of the spending see an escalation of the war on drugs taking shape at the expense of more proactive measures in the toolbox. 

“We should be looking for ways to keep people alive rather than looking for ways to handle the burden of deaths,” said Kathy Strain, a Berks County resident who works on mental health and substance use disorder issues. She has had more than one family member die from an opioid overdose.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Lifesaving or misguided? Funding Pa. coroners with opioid settlements criticized.


"While Cleveland-Cliffs is pushing false rumors to influence the market into believing we are working to unwind the transaction, nothing could be further from the truth."

—U.S. Steel blaming a rival for trying to derail its sale to Japan's Nippon Steel, which has launched a charm offensive in and around Pittsburgh; an arbitration date of Aug. 15 has been set for U.S. Steel and the United Steelworkers union over sale-related grievances filed in January
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Spotlight PA will soon launch a new weekly newsletter focused on caregiving and caregivers across Pennsylvania. Every Tuesday, "How We Care" will feature original reporting and perspectives on how we care for one another at all stages of life, the huge economic and policy questions ahead, and how it's affecting the lives of millions of people across the state. You can sign up for How We Care here.

SETTLEMENT STRATEGY: Join us TODAY, May 30, from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on how counties are using their opioid settlement funds, and what influences these decisions. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Water lilies, via Starr B. Have a photo of your own to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
Plants floating on water in the sun.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.PROUD PRONATALIST: Pronatalist Republican state House candidate Simone Collins is reveling in the backlash to a Guardian profile of her family that ends with her husband striking their toddler in front of the reporter. Collins told PennLive (paywall) that the article's virality is only aiding their cause. Her general election opponent, state Rep. Joe Webster (D., Montgomery), said the profile "speaks for itself."

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
MODERN POWER: Twenty-one Democratic-leaning states, including Pennsylvania, have committed to a Biden administration push to modernize the U.S. power grid. The initiative aims to up capacity, reduce outages, and make the system greener. Federal money is available as states look to shore up the vital infrastructure against climate change-related strain and high-draw technologies.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
DRUG DATA: Drug deaths appear to be declining in parts of Pennsylvania. While overdose counts are up, the number resulting in death has fallen sharply as the reversal drug naloxone has become more available, advocates tell WITF. Drug deaths in Dauphin and Lancaster Counties are on track to be half or less of what they were in 2023. The CDC recorded a 10.53% drop in statewide drug deaths last year.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
FRACK STUDY: Some experts are concerned a recent study that found large amounts of lithium in Pennsylvania fracking wastewater will be used to justify more fracking here. The study says treated Pennsylvania wastewater could potentially meet 40% of U.S. demand for the critical clean energy element, but Inside Climate News reports some question state regulators' ability to manage the gold rush.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.POLITICAL CALCULUS? Former staff of U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) tell the New York Times (paywall) his sharp break with the left may be calculated and that "he is carving out what he thinks is a more sustainable and winning lane for himself," as the paper put it. New polling has Fetterman's approval rating at 48%, up four points from last October and seven points higher than President Joe Biden's.
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PA PENALTY: Several WGAL viewers say they received tax penalties from the state's Department of Revenue despite submitting payments and returns on time. The department says it has discovered a problem.

NEW RECORDS: Negro League statistics have officially been integrated into the MLB database, making legendary Pittsburgh player Josh Gibson the new record-holder in multiple categories, via Yahoo Sports.

NEW NAME: A Cumberland County bridge has been named for Army Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart, a local whose 1993 death in Somalia is recounted in the book and film Black Hawk Down, via PennLive.

IN REVERSE: Harrisburg City Council has approved a contractor for the Broad Street Market rebuild after initially saying no. But WGAL's Tom Lehman says Tuesday's 4-3 vote showcased serious tensions with the mayor.

TIL: Philadelphia has an abnormal chromosome named after it: It's found in the bone marrow of some people with leukemia, and was discovered by researchers in the city.

Spotlight PA's exclusive "All Sun, No Shade" beach towel, on sale now

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Bold and thick, get ready for summer with this exclusive Spotlight PA swag. But hurry! Once they're gone, they're gone for the year. SHOP NOW >
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. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Stagehands

Congrats to our daily winners: Eric F., Stacy S., Elaine C., Kimberly D., Gerry L., Don H., Marc G., Bob C., Beth H., Alan B., Susan N.-Z., Craig E., Karen W., Wendy A., Lynne E., Jon W., Annette I., Michael T., Barbara F., Jeffrey F., William Z., Tom M., Vicki U., Tish M., and Stanley J. 
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