On August 26, 2016, the Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee held a hearing in Pittsburgh about funding for health and human services. House Appropriations Committee Chair Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) chaired the hearing and Representatives Leslie Acosta (D-Philadelphia), Mike O’Brien (D-Philadelphia), and Curt Sonney (R-Erie) participated. Representatives from UPMC, the McGowan Institute, the Epilepsy Foundation of Western Pennsylvania, the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, the Pittsburgh Super Computing Center, and the Pittsburgh Poison Center testified during the hearing. UPMC, the Epilepsy Foundation, and the School for Blind Children are GPNP members.
Key points from the testimony included:
- At the beginning of the hearing, Representative Adolph said that the hearing’s purpose was to illustrate the importance of the budget’s discretionary spending. At the end of the hearing, he stated for the record that his colleagues in the legislature should avoid starting budget line item negotiations at zero because each line item serves an important purpose for the Commonwealth.
- The Epilepsy Foundation's President and CEO Peggy Beem Jelley testified that its funding through the Department of Health is currently being held up. Representative Adolph said that he was aware of approximately 12 line items from the Department of Health that are currently being withheld without explanation. He and other members of the Committee pledged to investigate the cause with the intent of getting the funds disbursed. If your organization’s funding is currently delayed, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The School for Blind Children’s Executive Director Todd Reeves testified about the comprehensive services it offers to blind students, including those with severe disabilities. The services include teaching, therapy, behavioral health services, and case management, among others. Reeves also discussed the school’s outreach to school districts and emerging adult program.
- The Poison Control Center testified about its role in addressing the opioid epidemic. The center not only provides treatment to individuals harmed by opioids, it assists law enforcement with investigations into the sources of the drugs. The Center’s Director estimated that the center’s work to address the opioid epidemic and other poison-related issues saves taxpayers approximately $30 million per year in state spending.
- UPMC and the McGowan Institute discussed the advances that they have made in health care services and innovation. Additionally, both institutions discussed their economic impact as employers and as research institutions that use their state funds to leverage additional federal and philanthropic dollars to support research.