William O'Boyle: HSA joins advocates to spread awareness about suicide prevention

·7 min read

Oct. 3—WILKES-BARRE — Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead this week joined Prevent Suicide PA and other advocates to raise awareness about suicide prevention.

DHS works in conjunction with Prevent Suicide PA to support people affected by suicide, provide education, awareness, and understanding by collaborating with the community to prevent suicide, and reduce stigmas associated with suicide and mental health.

"Suicide prevention is something that we must all be actively engaged in every day," Snead said. "If you are someone who struggles with feelings of hopelessness, we want you to clearly hear this: your life and your health are too important to go through these feelings alone. These are very difficult times for many of us, and now more than ever we need to prioritize our commitment to community and relationships so no one has to go through these feelings alone.

"If you are experiencing difficult emotions or feelings of hopelessness, your feelings are valid and help is available, so please reach out. Check on those you love, and together we can save lives."

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month — approximately 1.4 million adults attempt suicide annually in the United States, with more than 85 percent reporting having made a suicide plan prior to their attempt.

Check in with yourself, be honest about how you are feeling to yourself and your support network, and if you need someone to talk to or a little extra support, help is available.

DHS' mental health support and referral helpline is available 24/7 and is a free resource staffed by skilled and compassionate caseworkers available to counsel Pennsylvanians struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions. The helpline caseworkers can refer callers to community-based resources that can further help to meet individual needs.

Since April 2020, more than 28,000 people have called, most seeking mental health services. Pennsylvanians can contact Persevere PA at 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or thoughts of suicide, or have in past, know that these free resources are also available 24/7:

—The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

—The Spanish-language National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-888-628-9454

—For the Mental Health Crisis Text Line: Text PA to 741741

—Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

—TrevorLifeline for LGBTQ individuals: 866-488-7386

—Trans Helpline: 877-565-8860

Additional resources can be found at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's website at afsp.org.

State announces transfer of

$2.6B to the Rainy Day Fund

Treasurer Stacy Garrity this week announced that $2.6 billion has been added to Pennsylvania's Rainy Day Fund.

The transfer was authorized earlier this year as part of the $40.8 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22.

"As Pennsylvania continues to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, it's important to plan for the future by having a strong Rainy Day Fund," Garrity said. "Having enough funding in reserve can alleviate pressure to cut discretionary program spending — or raise taxes — during an economic downturn. I commend the General Assembly for passing a budget that significantly bolstered our Rainy Day Fund."

The Rainy Day Fund, formally known as the Budget Stabilization Reserve Fund, serves as a safety net for the commonwealth.

The new balance of the Rainy Day Fund is nearly $2.9 billion. At that level, the fund is able to cover General Fund expenses for more than 25 days.

Bill dealing with waived/suspended

regulations headed to governor

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) this week said that House Bill 1861, legislation sponsored by Rep. Andrew Lewis (R-Dauphin) that deals with the nearly 500 regulations waived and suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is heading to the governor.

The action follows an extension of the waivers and suspensions when the COVID-19 disaster emergency declaration expired in June until Sept. 30.

"Back in June, when these regulatory waivers and suspensions were continued, it was done so we could have additional time to review the impact of the waivers and suspensions, whether the regulations were still needed, and what — if any — needed to be modified," Benninghoff said. "This bill reflects the first major effort at tackling this massive change."

While a number of regulations were reinstated in the legislation, the bill does extend waivers and extensions in a number of areas for an additional six months, including for tele-health and medical care, while the General Assembly continues to review the waived and suspended regulations.

"When looking at a massive upset of our traditional regulatory scheme and forging a path forward, especially while still navigating a global pandemic, the priority must be: First, do no harm.," Benninghoff said. "While this bill does bring back online a number of needed waived and suspended regulations, it keeps in place critical waivers for tele-health, the provision of medical and mental health services, and important provisions to help government and business operate during the pandemic."

"This bill takes several positive steps in reforming our regulatory framework, continuing to respond to and responsibly manage this pandemic, and keep an eye toward future reforms," he concluded.

Yudichak committee approves loan

program for veteran-owned businesses

Chaired by Sen. John Yudichak, I-Swoyersville, the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee this week took action on a pair of bills that would establish a guaranteed loan program for veteran-owned businesses, and update an existing property assessed clean energy program to include a number of new provisions.

Yudichak introduced both legislative measures.

Loan guarantees of up to $250,000 would be authorized out of a $5 million allotment designated for the new veteran-owned business endeavor, as part of Senate Bill 830.

"There are more than 700,000 veterans residing in Pennsylvania, and this legislation represents an opportunity for the General Assembly to thank those American heroes for their service," Yudichak said. "I can think of no better way to honor our veterans then by helping them launch a prosperous and productive civilian life."

Eligibility requirements for the statewide Property-Assessed Clean Energy Program (C-PACE) would be updated as part of Senate Bill 635. Originally enacted in 2018, C-PACE enables property owners to take advantage of private capital and long-term financing to implement energy efficiency, water conservation and clean energy for agricultural, commercial and industrial properties. New program enhancements would include eligibility for multi-family commercial buildings, indoor air upgrades, and resiliency improvements.

"Nationwide, C-PACE programs have led to over $2 billion in investments, more than 2,500 commercial projects, and 24,000 new jobs," Yudichak said.

The bipartisan pieces of legislation advance to the full Senate for consideration.

Rep. Cartwright announces $2.1M

for NEPA health care infrastructure

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, this week announced three Northeastern Pennsylvania Community Health Centers will receive a total of $2.1 million in American Rescue Plan funds to strengthen primary health care infrastructure and advance health equity and health outcomes in medically under-served communities, including through projects that support COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccination.

The following health centers will receive a total of $2,614,779 in federal funds:

—Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers will receive $982,856

—Scranton Primary Health Care Center, Inc. will receive $631,373

—Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania will receive $550,000

"Our Community Health Centers not only continue to fight on the front lines of COVID-19, they are critical to addressing our communities' many other health care needs," Cartwright said. "I commend our local Health Centers for the work they are doing to combat this pandemic. This American Rescue Plan funding will enable them to continue their work to better meet the most pressing public health challenges associated with COVID-19 in our most vulnerable communities."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded nearly $1 billion in American Rescue Plan funding to nearly 1,300 Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Health Center Program-funded health centers through the Construction and Capital Improvements Program.

Health centers will use this funding for COVID-19-related capital needs, constructing new facilities, renovating and expanding existing facilities to enhance response to pandemics, and purchasing new state-of-the-art equipment, including telehealth technology, mobile medical vans and freezers to store vaccines.

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