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Pennsylvania lawmakers question secrecy around how abuse or neglect of older adults is investigated – Metro Philadelphia



Pennsylvania lawmakers question secrecy around how abuse or neglect of older adults is investigated – Metro Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks with members of the media during a news conference in Yardley, Pa., Monday, Dec. 4, 2023.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

By MARC LEVY Associated Press

Pennsylvania lawmakers want Gov. Josh Shapiro’s Department of Aging to disclose more about the shortcomings it finds when it evaluates whether county-level agencies are properly investigating complaints about the abuse or neglect of older adults.


The effort comes as Republican state lawmakers have pressed Shapiro’s administration to do more to investigate the deaths of older adults who are the subject of an abuse or neglect complaint after Pennsylvania recorded a steep increase in such deaths.

Rep. Louis Schmitt, R-Blair, introduced legislation Wednesday requiring the department to publish the compliance status of each of the 52 county-level agencies that it’s supposed to inspect annually, and to publish a report on the findings.

“The public needs to know. The public deserves to know. The public has a right to know,” Schmitt said in an interview. “You cannot hide if you’re going to conduct public business, especially public business that affects the health and safety and welfare of seniors in Pennsylvania.”

The department told lawmakers earlier this year that it had deemed seven of the agencies to be noncompliant. The year before that, 13 were noncompliant when lawmakers asked.

In a statement, the Department of Aging said it looked forward to working with Schmitt. The department said it expects to introduce a new performance evaluation process beginning in June and will post results on its website.


The department has recently declined requests by The Associated Press for two sets of documents: one in which the department outlines to county-level agencies the shortcomings it found and another in which the county-level agency must explain how it will fix those shortcomings. The department, under Shapiro’s predecessor, former Gov. Tom Wolf, had provided such documents unredacted to the AP.

Those refusals come after a January evaluation of Philadelphia’s agency found that its protective services bureau had improperly handled 16 — or one-third — of 50 closed cases that were picked at random for the review.

The details of complaints, investigations and the identity of the person whose situation is in question are kept secret.

The Philadelphia Corporation For Aging declined to comment. A letter the department sent to the agency didn’t describe the problems or how the agency planned to fix them.

Asked about the fate of the 16 adults, the department said none of their cases “required a referral to law enforcement or a report to the coroner’s office.”


The department also said it is taking steps to help the Philadelphia agency, including by encouraging the agency to seek out a broader pool of applicants for caseworkers and supervisory staff and expanding training.

The department has contracts with 52 county-level “area agencies for aging” — nicknamed triple As — across Pennsylvania to field and investigate abuse and neglect complaints and, ultimately, ensure the older adult is safe and connected to the appropriate social services. Some are county-run and some are privately run.

Sheri McQuown, a protective services specialist who left the Department of Aging last year after almost seven years, said there is no reason the department cannot publish the findings from its evaluations and the local agencies’ corrective action plans.

“The public should know what they’re paying for, what they’re getting for their money, and older adults should know which triple As are effective and which are not,” McQuown said.

How the Philadelphia agency handles complaints has stoked repeated concerns. At one point, the state stepped in to handle investigations.


McQuown questioned whether the Department of Aging has the spine to hold the county-level agencies accountable. High numbers of deficiencies has long been the norm for Philadelphia and some other agencies, she said.

The county-level agencies do not always comply with state requirements that limit caseworkers’ caseloads, set deadlines to resolve cases and set timelines within which caseworkers must promptly see potential victims.

The agencies also decide which complaints to investigate, and state data has long shown disparities between the agencies in how often they deemed a complaint to be worthy of action.

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California Blue takes men’s Greco-Roman title with last match heroics over Pennsylvania at AFSW Junior National Duals



California Blue takes men’s Greco-Roman title with last match heroics over Pennsylvania at AFSW Junior National Duals

Air Force Special Warfare Junior National Duals | June 19-22, Tulsa, Okla.


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Men’s Greco-Roman Gold/Silver Results

1st Place – California Blue

2nd Place – Pennsylvania

3rd Place – Illinois

4th Place – Idaho

5th Place – Minnesota Blue


6th Place – Oklahoma Blue

7th Place – Iowa

8th Place – Colorado


1st Place Match – California Blue defeated Pennsylvania, 32-30

285 – Nicholas Sahakian (California Blue) tech. fall Mark Effendian (Pennsylvania), 9-0

100 – Niko Selianitis (California Blue) dec. Grady Moore (Pennsylvania), 13-8

106 – Kole Davidheiser (Pennsylvania) tech. fall Jayren Chan (California Blue), 8-0

113 – Gabriel Dela Rosa (California Blue) fall Max Tancini (Pennsylvania)

120 – Kavin Muyleart (Pennsylvania) dec. Elijah Almarinez (California Blue), 11-7


126 – Lincoln Sledzianowski (Pennsylvania) tech. fall Edwin Sierra (California Blue), 9-0

132 – Isaiah Cortez (California Blue) dec. Aaron Seidel (Pennsylvania), 4-0

138 – Elijah Cortez (California Blue) dec. Sam Herring (Pennsylvania), 8-6

144 – Pierson Manville (Pennsylvania) tech. fall Daniel Zepeda (California Blue), 9-0

150 – Luis Alberto-Desilva (Pennsylvania) tech. fall Jagger French (California Blue), 8-0


157 – Vince Bouzakis (Pennsylvania) tech. fall Tigran Greyan (California Blue), 10-0

165 – Noah Daniels (California Blue) fall Greyson Catlow-Sidler (Pennsylvania), 1:37

175 – Adam Waters (Pennsylvania) fall Dylan Pile (California Blue), 1:16

190 – Thomas Sandoval (California Blue) tech. fall Mason Hartung (Pennsylvania), 9-0

215 – Angelo Posada (California Blue) tech. fall Jason Singer (Pennsylvania), 8-0



3rd Place Match – Illinois defeated Idaho, 40-27

285 – Shilo Jones (Idaho) tech. fall Wyatt Schmitt (Illinois), 8-0

100 – Michael Rundell (Illinois) tech. fall Brand`n Edstrom (Idaho), 15-6

106 – Caden Correll (Illinois) tech. fall Ryan Hirchert (Idaho), 8-0


113 – Caleb Noble (Illinois) fall Hunter Anderson (Idaho)

120 – Inocencio Garcia (Illinois) tech. fall Dylan Frothinger (Idaho), 12-4

126 – Boden Banta (Idaho) dec. Noah Woods (Illinois), 5-5

132 – Hoyt Hvass (Idaho) dec. Gauge Shipp (Illinois), 8-5

138 – Joseph Knackstedt (Illinois) tech. fall Nathan Gugelman II (Idaho), 8-0


144 – Andres Santiago Chaparro Urrego (Illinois) dec. DJ Neider (Idaho), 7-2

150 – Matthew Martino (Idaho) tech. fall Evan Gosz (Illinois), 9-0

157 – Carlos Valdez (Idaho) tech. fall Julian Slaastad (Illinois), 16-6

165 – Cael Miller (Illinois) tech. fall Xander Zollinger (Idaho), 11-0

175 – Jimmy Mastny (Illinois) forfeit


190 – Hudson Rogers (Idaho) dq. Alihan Bereket (Illinois)

215 – Kaiden Morris (Illinois) tech. fall Carson Gooley (Idaho), 13-3


5th Place Match – Minnesota Blue defeated Oklahoma Blue, 34-32

285 – Mason Harris (Oklahoma Blue) fall Logan Bender (Minnesota Blue), 1:25


100 – Landon Thoennes (Minnesota Blue) tech. fall Bobby Lima (Oklahoma Blue), 12-1

106 – Zebediah Tibbles (Oklahoma Blue) tech. fall Jacob Kranz (Minnesota Blue), 8-0

113 – Eric Casula (Oklahoma Blue) dec. Eli Schultz (Minnesota Blue), 3-1

120 – Titan Friederichs (Minnesota Blue) tech. fall Colt Collett (Oklahoma Blue), 10-0

126 – Isaiah Jones (Oklahoma Blue) fall Lawson Eller (Minnesota Blue), 0:30


132 – Hudson Hackbarth (Oklahoma Blue) tech. fall Aiden Graner (Minnesota Blue), 8-0

138 – Garrett Salt (Oklahoma Blue) tech. fall Trey Gunderson (Minnesota Blue), 8-0

144 – Alex Braun (Minnesota Blue) forfeit

150 – Nolan Ambrose (Minnesota Blue) tech. fall Preston Reyna (Oklahoma Blue), 14-6

157 – Conlan Carlson (Minnesota Blue) tech. fall Tharyn Hausler (Oklahoma Blue), 9-0


165 – Griffin Lundeen (Minnesota Blue) tech. fall Daegan Reyes (Oklahoma Blue), 8-0

175 – Jed Wester (Minnesota Blue) tech. fall Deontre Buttram (Oklahoma Blue), 12-4

190 – Peyton Callis (Oklahoma Blue) tech. fall Shane Carlson (Minnesota Blue), 8-0

215 – Ben Schultz (Minnesota Blue) tech. fall Samuel Pritz (Oklahoma Blue), 8-0


7th Place Match – Iowa defeated Colorado, 34-33

285 – Trent Warner (Iowa) forfeit

100 – Coy Mehlert (Iowa) forfeit

106 – Urijah Courter (Iowa) dq. Daniel Jordan (Colorado)

113 – Everest Sutton (Colorado) tech. fall Cooper Hinz (Iowa), 8-0


120 – Dustin John Snider (Colorado) tech. fall Tyler Harper (Iowa), 9-0

126 – Jesse Lewis (Iowa) tech. fall Enrique Soto (Colorado), 11-0

132 – Timothy Koester (Iowa) tech. fall Nick Dardanes (Colorado), 12-1

138 – Chancellor Mathews (Colorado) tech. fall Jordan Schmidt (Iowa), 9-0

144 – Otto Black (Colorado) tech. fall Jabari Hinson (Iowa), 14-4


150 – Benjamin Hansen (Iowa) dec. DJ Wince (Colorado), 5-1

157 – Garrett Reece (Colorado) dec. Kyler Knaack (Iowa), 12-7

165 – Brandon Dean (Colorado) fall Lincoln Jipp (Iowa), 2:40

175 – Leister Bowling IV (Colorado) tech. fall Daniel Magayna (Iowa), 12-2

190 – Brody Sampson (Iowa) tech. fall Ira Sittner (Colorado), 10-0


215 – Quinn Funk (Colorado) dec. Henry Christensen (Iowa) Dec 6-3

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Legal cannabis likely won’t be in this year’s budget, but supporters say there’s a silver lining



Legal cannabis likely won’t be in this year’s budget, but supporters say there’s a silver lining

This story originally appeared on Spotlight PA.

Gov. Josh Shapiro made legalizing recreational marijuana a centerpiece of his budget pitch this year, but cannabis advocates and Pennsylvania lawmakers say such a proposal is unlikely to be part of a final deal.

Democrats who control the state House have yet to find consensus on how to regulate a multibillion-dollar industry and include the people most harmed by drug criminalization in the new market. Meanwhile, the lawmaker who controls what legislation the GOP-majority state Senate considers still opposes legalization.

Passing a legalization bill with the budget due June 30 is “probably not a realistic timeframe,” said state Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny), chair of the House Health Committee.


Still, legalization advocates say they’re closer than ever to success, citing allies in both parties, legalization in all but one of the commonwealth’s neighbors, and a blueprint in the passage of medical marijuana.

“We’re on a path to get this done,” Frankel told Spotlight PA.

Polling shows the issue is popular with voters in the lead-up to a contentious election in November. Three proposals had been introduced in the legislature as of mid-June — two with bipartisan backing — and more are on the horizon.

The cannabis industry itself, which sees big profits in Pennsylvania, is pushing hard for legalization, employing dozens of lobbyists at at least nine different firms to make their case to legislators. They largely support a bill that would create a new regulatory board dedicated to marijuana and allow existing medical marijuana companies to transition into the recreational market.

Legislative Democrats who have spearheaded legalization talks this year want to allow the people most affected by marijuana criminalization to participate in the new industry and to ensure legalization doesn’t adversely affect public health.


Chief among the roadblocks is deciding how the new industry would be structured.

In his February budget pitch, Shapiro asked lawmakers to pass a 20% tax on recreational marijuana sales. He estimated that doing so would bring in more than $250 million in annual tax revenue once the industry is off the ground.

Shapiro also asked that a bill include expungement for people convicted of nonviolent possession of small amounts of marijuana, and echoed legislative calls for the industry to include previously criminalized groups. And he wants the state Department of Agriculture to regulate the industry.

He left the rest of the details up to the legislature.

Frankel’s committee has since held many hearings on the issue. He said he heard from a “parade of interests” that, while often well-meaning, “want to create a great business opportunity.”


That experience led him to support the sale of marijuana in state-owned stores, similar to existing ones that sell liquor and wine. Twenty-one other Democrats have signed on to a bill that would create such stores.

“It’s clear that if our main priority is protecting public health from unintended consequences of for-profit commercialization, then a state-owned system for adult-use cannabis may be a way to it,” Frankel said.

Frankel argued such a system would let the state take on the risk of managing the volatile new industry and protect Pennsylvania farmers.

“There is a lot to like about this mode, but there are certainly other ideas and approaches out there to be considered,” he added, saying that his own proposal will depend on what his colleagues back.

Frankel also expressed interest in adopting some measures from Canadian law. One would be to require edible flavors to be “unappealing to children” and come in varieties such as broccoli or beets instead of the candy-like options popular in states with adult-use cannabis.


Such ideas, particularly state sales of marijuana, are opposed by the industry and some advocates. But Frankel said he wouldn’t be fazed by their concerns.

“I would be somewhat skeptical of a bill that was universally and enthusiastically endorsed by the industry, and I think that [in] my experiences, sometimes the best policy doesn’t make every stakeholder happy,” he told Spotlight PA.

Reaching a consensus in the closely divided state House is only the first hurdle for legalization. The next — and much bigger one — would be winning over the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Legislative Republicans have long blocked action on cannabis by citing its federal status as a Schedule I drug, which the Drug Enforcement Administration says has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

President Joe Biden’s administration this year began the process of reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug. But state Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R., Indiana) told Spotlight PA in a statement that he still has concerns.


“I continue to hear from drug and alcohol providers in my district that have reservations about the use of marijuana and its impacts on addiction,” Pittman said. “I have long believed this issue is something the federal government needs to figure out.”

Those concerns have been echoed by influential interest groups, such as the state’s manufacturers association, law enforcement organizations, and some children’s advocates.

But Meredith Buettner, executive director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition, a trade organization that represents medical marijuana permit holders, believes the right circumstances could force the legislature to act. The state is currently flush with surplus cash but faces long-term revenue issues it will one day be forced to reckon with.

“Stranger things have happened during the month of June in Harrisburg,” she told Spotlight PA.

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Pittsburgh Excessive Heat Warning Extended; Air Quality Alert Issued



Pittsburgh Excessive Heat Warning Extended; Air Quality Alert Issued

PITTSBURGH, PA — As Southwestern Pennsylvania deals with another day of near-record-setting high temperatures, the region’s air quality is deteriorating.

The National Weather Service has extended the Excessive Heat Warning that was issued Tuesday from Friday at 8 p.m. until Saturday at 8 p.m. Meanwhile, an Air Quality Alert is in effect for Thursday.

First, the heat wave: Expect more of the same. The high today and Friday will be 94 and is expected to jump to 96 on Saturday.

If you’re tired of this trend, the weather service says there is light at the end of the tunnel. Rain and a cold front on Sunday will cool things back to just above normal for Monday.


Unfortunately, the weather service is warning of another “tunnel” next week, with temperatures again climbing back into the 90s.

Now the Air Quality Alert.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued a Code Orange Air Quality Alert for Thursday, including the greater Pittsburgh region and Allegheny, Butler, Beaver, Armstrong, Washington, Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

A Code Orange air quality alert means that air pollution concentrations within the region may become unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children, the elderly and those suffering from asthma, heart disease, or other lung diseases.

There also is a slight chance of severe thunderstorms developing today, although the weather service says the primary risk will be north of Pittsburgh.


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