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Senate Committee Oks Rural Health Bill

Committee also advances fentanyl screening, FQHC preceptor program, new DDAP leader

June 20, 2023

The state Senate Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday advanced legislation supporting the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model, along with a host of other pertinent bills for the hospital community.

Senate Bill 768, sponsored by committee Chair Michele Brooks (R-Crawford), authorizes $2.5 million to help support the model and the Pennsylvania Rural Health Redesign Center Authority, while making changes to how board member terms are configured.

Launched during 2019, the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model is a pilot program between the state and federal governments. The model provides a predictable revenue source for 18 participating Pennsylvania rural hospitals, ensuring they have the resources they need to transform care in their communities. HAP continues to focus on legislative and regulatory initiatives that help Pennsylvania’s rural hospitals deliver outstanding care.

The Health and Human Services Committee also unanimously advanced:

  • Senate Bill 817, sponsored by Brooks, creates the infrastructure to allow federally qualified health centers (FQHC) to offer preceptorship programs to students who are training for careers as primary care clinicians, dental providers, and behavioral health professionals.
  • Senate Bill 683, sponsored by Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Adams), would require general acute care hospitals to include testing for fentanyl and Xylazine in urine drug screenings used for diagnosing patient conditions.
    • Xylazine, also known as “Tranq,” is a powerful sedative that the FDA has approved for veterinary use. It has been reported as an emerging threat in the nation’s illicit drug supply.

The bills move to the full Senate for consideration.

Additionally, the committee unanimously advanced the nomination of Dr. Latika Davis-Jones to be the next secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP). The legislators reported a favorable recommendation to the Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee.

Dr. Davis-Jones most recently worked for Highmark Wholecare, serving as the senior director of behavioral health. She also served as administrator for the Allegheny County Drug and Alcohol Services from 2011–2020 and was an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh. 

For more information about HAP’s state advocacy initiatives, contact Heather Tyler, vice president, state legislative advocacy.