Our most recent session week for the Pennsylvania House started with concentrating on issues relating to our veterans. As a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, I can tell you that there is a great deal of bipartisan effort to recognize the commitment and sacrifices of those who have served our nation. Some bills relating to veteran affairs finally came to vote on the House floor this week.
First and foremost, House Resolution 153 recognized Veteran’s Day 2021, celebrating the service and sacrifice of the nearly 800,000 veterans across our Commonwealth.
Members of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee were joined at Soldiers and Sailors Grove outside of the state capitol by Major Gen. Mark Schindler and other distinguished veterans to discuss bills that were subsequently passed by the House. Bills passed established Persian Gulf War Day, Global War on Terrorism Veterans Day and First Responders Day, as well as providing that the graves of veterans will be properly maintained with flags in Allegheny County.
As we pass Veterans Day and move toward Thanksgiving, remembering the sacrifices of our soldiers and their families should be at the heart of our “thankful” lists.
We have large numbers of hunters and fishers in our district. I am a member of the House Game and Fisheries Committee, and we met this past session and voted several bills out of committee. These bills include amending the Fish and Boat Code to provide for a dedicated fishing license exemption for veterans and other individuals taking steps towards physical or mental recovery as part of therapeutic programs. Another bill amends the Game Code to allow for the hunting practice of falconry on Sundays, and one amends the Fish and Boat Code to align the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s boat registration timing with the calendar year.
Keeping our children healthy while in school is always a priority. Enabling our school personnel to properly address health issues is imperative to our children’s wellbeing. A bill passed out of the House addresses the needs of those who suffer from seizures. This bill enables all school personnel to be trained in seizure recognition and response through an approved Department of Health online course and makes completion of such course creditable for professional continuing education credits. This course will be provided by a national nonprofit foundation with an understanding of epilepsy and seizure disorders.
This past week I again joined the Sto-Rox Mental Health Providers Partnership Meeting. I have been doing this for several years now, knowing that the issues of mental health and addiction are very real in our communities.
Since the passage of Pennsylvania’s Mental Health Procedures Act was passed back in the 1970s so much has changed in the health care industry, including the understanding that physical health and mental health are interrelated.
The House passed two bills that will align Pennsylvania law with HIPAA standards and allow targeted data sharing between the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and health insurers. Patients will receive better treatment as providers, facilities and health plans will be able to more easily share patient mental health and substance use disorder-related information. This will close the gaps in care and provide better outreach, education, and much-needed support.
Mental health and addiction disorders should no longer be stigmatized.
These very real disorders must be understood. Those who are suffering should have all the resources needed to seek treatment and have their illnesses properly addressed.