About the Children: Policy Updates from Pennsylvania

Happy New Year, all!  New year, new legislation!

PA

HB 1753 – This bill was introduced this week in the house.  It will require schools K-12 as well as postsecondary institutions to annually report incidences of sexual assault and domestic violence to the Department of Education, which would then be published on the Department’s website as part of a Campus Report Card.  Could be interesting; I hope it’s done well and not bungled, if it’s done at all.

HB 2009 – This was also introduced this week, and if it’s enacted, it will require “bullying education” to be taught in schools across all grade levels.  As a former teacher, I’m always skeptical when the government wants to step in and require specialized education on such a general topic, and I know that many schools have worked hard to initiate thoughtful, evidenced-based, and measurably positive anti-bullying programs and strategies.  I would prefer that the state come up with a way to find the best one of these and then give schools money to implement it statewide.  Just something to think about.


Federal

S. 1766 – I’m not sure how I missed this one!  It was introduced in July and has already made it through both houses and was signed by the president on Monday.  It looks like this bill expands on a bill that was introduced (but no passed into law) in 2013 called the SAFER (Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting) Act.  It allows for grants to state and local government to cut down on the sexual assault evidence (rape kit, etc.) backlogs in storage.  S. 1766 also looks to expand the US legal code that was created under PL 113-4, so that definitions of rape and sexual assault included in the US code also include language that would allow pediatric and forensic doctors and nurses to have access to grant money for use in patient care, reporting, and evidence processing.  It also expands definitions to include language about elder abuse.  Overall, it looks like this bill (now PL 115-107) is looking to give more assault victims, including children, access to resources to help them with both the legal- and health-related consequences of the crimes committed against them.

HR 3759 – This resolution is designed “to provide for the establishment and maintenance of a Family Caregiving Strategy, and for other purposes.”  It’s cleverly titled “Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act of 2017” or the “RAISE Family Caregivers Act.”  We’ve talked about this one a bit in the past few weeks.  It’s a resolution, so it’s not quite as measurable or actionable as a bill would be, but the establishment of the Family Caregiving Advisory Council seems like a promising first step to real reform. This passed the Senate and is now going to the President.


Uplifting News

Our uplifting news this week is fascinating!  The world’s first mental-health ambulance has been launched in Stockholm, Sweden.  They call it the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PAM is the Swedish acronym) and it was launched in lage 2016, early 2017, and has responded to 1,000 calls.  According to the article, “Only one fourth out of the 1,036 individuals who attended during the first year went on to longer inpatient care. The scheme has proved it is offering the right response to such delicate emergencies.”  More cities in Sweden are considering implementing their own PAM, and the rest of Europe is keeping an eye on their progress.  This reminds me of the Resolve hotline, but imagine how helpful it could be to have access to a mobile Resolve response unit!

Happy Friday, and don’t forget to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights’ movement this weekend.  I’ve heard good things about the movie Detroit, which is now available to rent on iTunes and Google Play.  Here’s a positive review and here’s a more critical review, in case you’re interested.

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