Jun. 06, 2024

Privacy Must Not be Sacrificed in Mental Health Proposal

The last few years, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, have shown a higher level of importance when considering mental health care.

But when does concern become intrusive? When does making information available extend to unnecessary mandates?

These were my concerns when casting a vote against House Bill 1367 when the bill was recently considered by the House. The bill could lead to invasive psychological testing and burdensome requirements on volunteer sports coaches. 

At first glance, the bill is a valiant attempt to simply make certain Pennsylvania families and school athletic staffs are aware of mental health resources available to school sports participants. It also requires the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Education to create a curriculum for school officials.

But the proposal extends much further than making information available.

One of the requirements in the bill would be for families to document mental health history on the health physical examination form that is currently required for students to participate in a school sport. The form would be updated by the Pennsylvania Department of Health but the bill places no limitations on what information is to be required of the family. If any portion of the form is left blank, the medical physician would be prohibited from signing the form until that section is completed.

Imagine this: Parents with a middle school-age child are having marital problems. Attempting to work through the issue, they are engaging in marriage counseling, while the child is speaking with a counselor to better cope with the issues.

Family counseling is an important resource for such a family, especially the child. But my fear is that this newly drafted health form would invade this family’s privacy and require them to document that they are receiving these services.

In addition, many school sports rely on volunteers to serve as athletic coaches. Many school districts in the 55th legislative district are experiencing a shortage of people willing to dedicate their time and efforts as a coach.

While I could support making certain information about mental health is available to coaches, I stop short of supporting the mandate included House Bill 1367. If a school district determines that such a requirement would benefit their district, they can certainly choose to mandate mental health training at the local level.

House Bill 1367 passed 102-100 in the House and has been referred to the Senate.

Here are some additional news topics and reminders I would like to share.

Application Deadline Extended for 2023 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program - The deadline for senior citizens and Pennsylvanians with disabilities to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2023 has been extended to Dec. 31. 

Income limits for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program increased this year to $45,000 for both homeowners and renters. If you were earning too much to qualify before, you may be eligible now. Remember to exclude 50% of Social Security when determining your income. The law I supported to expand the program also increased the maximum rebate to $1,000. 

The program is open to residents age 65 years and older; widows and widowers 50 years and older; and people with disabilities 18 years and older.

Remember – you do not need to pay anyone for assistance to apply for the rebates. Apply online at mypath.pa.gov, or contact my Washington Township/Export office at 724-387-9113 or my New Kensington office at 724-472-4102. Additional information about the program is available at www.revenue.pa.gov. Rebates will be distributed beginning July 1, as required by law.

Check Out the Revamped 511PA - The Commonwealth’s free, statewide travel information service – 511PA – has been upgraded with a new website, mobile app and phone system to make it more user friendly. 

Operated by PennDOT and the PA Turnpike, 511PA provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras. It is available online via its website, 511PA.com; through smartphone apps; by dialing 5-1-1; or following regional X alerts. 

Users can sign up for personalized travel alerts on the website. Current 511PA personal-alert subscribers need to create a new account in the updated system and set up their preferences to continue receiving alerts. A transformed 511PA app is part of the new system, so users will need to update their Apple or Android app to access the latest version.

PFBC Seeks Applications for Boating Infrastructure Grant Program - The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is requesting proposals for its Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program. 

The grants are economic engines for local communities that benefit traveling boaters by offering safe overnight docking opportunities and easy access to towns and waterfronts. Grants may be made to public and private operators of open-to-the-public boating facilities, including municipal agencies (cities, townships, counties, etc.), state agencies and other government entities.

Eligible activities include the construction, renovation and maintenance of transient tie-up facilities. Boating infrastructure refers to features that provide stopover places for transient non-trailerable recreational vessels to tie up. These features include transient slips, day docks, floating docks and fixed piers, navigational aids, and dockside utilities, including electric, water and pumpout stations. For additional information, visit the grants page on PFBC website at fishandboat.com. The deadline for submitting proposals is July 31.

Representative Jill Cooper
55th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jordan Frei
jillCooper.com / Facebook.com/RepJillCooper