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Gov. Wolf: Support & Referral Helpline Created for Pennsylvanians in Need of Behavioral Health Resources and Referrals During COVID-19 Public Health Crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2020


Gov. Wolf: Support & Referral Helpline Created for Pennsylvanians in Need of Behavioral Health Resources and Referrals During COVID-19 Public Health Crisis


Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Human Services (DHS) today announced the launch of a statewide Support & Referral Helpline staffed by skilled and compassionate caseworkers who will be available 24/7 to counsel Pennsylvanians struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions due to the COVID-19 emergency and refer them to community-based resources that can further help to meet individual needs.
“Pennsylvanians will overcome this crisis together by following the guidance of public-health professionals who advise social-distancing to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but physical isolation does not mean social isolation,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “We must support people where they are during this time of crisis.”
The toll-free, round-the-clock support line is officially operational today, Thursday, April 2. The number to call is 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.
To create and staff the support line, DHS has partnered with the Center for Community Resources (CCR), an experienced regional crisis and call center provider based in Butler County and licensed to provide crisis services.
CCR staff are trained to be accessible, culturally competent, and skilled at assisting individuals with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, co-occurring disorders and other special needs. Staff use the principles of trauma-informed care to listen, assess needs, triage calls, and provide appropriate referral to community resources to children, teens, adults and special populations.
CCR will collaborate with individuals, families, police, emergency medical teams, hospitals, schools, and human service providers on the local level to provide quality care to their community members.
“We recognize the significant strain this crisis is putting on families across Pennsylvania, and we want you to know that you do not have to struggle alone. If you need help, reach out,” said Secretary Miller. “The compassionate caseworkers staffing the Support & Referral Helpline will be there to answer your call and be a line of support during this difficult time.”
Many other resources also remain available to Pennsylvanians in need of support, including:
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
• Línea Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio: 1-888-628-9454
• Crisis Text Line: Text “PA” to 741-741
• Safe2Say: 1-844-723-2729 or www.safe2saypa.org
• Veteran Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
• Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990
• Get Help Now Hotline (for substance use disorders): 1-800-662-4357
Visit the PA Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.
Additional resources for citizens and DHS providers related to COVID-19 is available here.
A media call will begin at 1:00 p.m. Members of the media who are interested may contact Brandon Cwalina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for call-in information.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Department of Agriculture Reassures Pennsylvanians: COVID-19 Not Transmissible through Food, Supply Chain is Secure

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 2, 2020

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Department of Agriculture Reassures Pennsylvanians: COVID-19 Not Transmissible through Food, Supply Chain is Secure

Harrisburg, PA – Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Department of Agriculture Food Safety Director Jeff Warner today assured Pennsylvanians that there is no evidence that human or animal food or food packaging is associated with transmission of COVID-19. Redding also reviewed the department’s recommendations to retail food and agriculture operations for continuity of business, inhibiting transmission, and maintaining a healthy workforce to ensure continuous access to food during COVID-19.

“I want to assure Pennsylvanians and ease their fear: food is safe,” said Warner. “There is no evidence of COVID-19 being transmissible through food or food packaging.”

Grocery stores, food manufacturers, and distributors have been provided guidance to protect their workforce and consumers from COVID-19. This includes the following CDC and FDA recommendations:

  • Enforce social distancing in lines, separate customers and employees by six feet whenever possible.
  • Implement visual cues, such as tape on the floor every six feet, to help customers keep a six-foot distance from others whenever possible.
  • Install floor markings to require customers to stand behind, until it’s time to complete the transaction.
  • Consider limiting the number of people in the store at one time. Implementing a maximum capacity and assigning staff to manage the number of people entering.
  • Consider setting special hours for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or immuno-compromised. Recommend allowing these populations to enter the store earliest in the day to reduce chances of exposure and ensure access to inventory.

Guidance was also provided for sanitization and employee protection, to further inhibit transmission in manufacturing environments and grocery stores. Some recommendations include:

  • Do not allow symptomatic (fever of 100.4° F or greater, signs of a fever, or other symptoms) or ill employees to report for duty.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces to limit employee contact and increase frequency of cleaning and sanitizing of common touch points (door handles, touch-screens, keypads).
  • Consider altering store hours to allow for increased cleaning and re-stocking without customers present.
  • Cross-train employees and rotate staff between cashier, stocking, and other duties, to limit mental fatigue in adhering to social distancing measures.
  • Consider installing sneeze-guards at cashier stations.
  • Schedule handwashing breaks every 30-60 minutes. Employees should wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%-95% alcohol may be used. However, if hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.
  • Assign a relief person to step in for cashiers so they can wash their hands with soap for a full 20 seconds. Provide hand lotion so workers’ hands don’t crack.
  • Consider providing hand sanitizer at cash registers for staff and customer use in between transactions.
  • Consider only operating every other register or check-out lane to create more social distance.

“Pennsylvania’s grocery stores, food banks and pantries, food manufacturing and agriculture industry have a heavy responsibility right now: to provide continuous access to food, safely, during the most challenging crisis most have ever experienced,” said Secretary Redding. “We’ve worked hard to impress upon these truly life-sustaining businesses that just because they are essential, this is not business as usual. The guidance we’ve provided is what they must implement to protect their workforce; it’s what they must implement to save Pennsylvanians and provide for them at the same time.”

Following a brief pause in support of the national, “15 Days to Slow the Spread” initiative, effective April 1, 2020, the Department of Agriculture re-deployed the state’s food safety inspectors to ensure continued protection of Pennsylvanians and prevent foodborne illness.

“It’s time to put our boots back to the ground and resume food safety inspections and offering in-person guidance to these essential businesses,” added Warner. “We’re going to do our best to help Pennsylvania businesses provide the safest food possible to consumers. Pennsylvanians need to know their food is safe, something we can only ensure through proactive inspections.”

For a complete list of guidance documents and information as it relates to agriculture during COVID-19 mitigation in Pennsylvania visit agriculture.pa.gov/COVID. For the most accurate, timely information related to Health in Pennsylvania, visit on.pa.gov/coronavirus.

MEDIA CONTACT: Shannon Powers – 717.783.2628

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State Police Reinforces Commitment to Prevent, Investigate Bias-Based Crimes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 2, 2020

 

State Police Reinforces Commitment to Prevent, Investigate Bias-Based Crimes

 

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) recently disseminated a letter to local, state, and federal stakeholders to affirm the Department’s continued support of the Asian American communities throughout the commonwealth. Across the country, law enforcement has seen an increasing number of incidents targeting members of this community due to misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Asian American Community and other minority groups should know that the state police take every allegation of hate/bias crime seriously, and each complaint receives a full investigation,” said Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. “We will not tolerate hate or bias of any kind in Pennsylvania.”

The PSP Heritage Affairs Section is a unit dedicated to the prevention and investigation of hate/bias crimes and incidents. The unit works closely with community organizations, lawmakers, and municipal, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to mitigate issues between law enforcement and historically underserved communities.

Members of the Heritage Affairs Section routinely meet with stakeholders on a proactive basis to address their concerns and maintain open lines of communication between their communities and law enforcement.

To date, the PSP has not investigated any hate/bias crimes related to COVID-19 targeting Asian American communities in Pennsylvania. If you feel you, or someone you know is a victim of a hate/bias crime or incident, contact your local law enforcement agency.

“Victims may be reluctant to come forward for cultural reasons, or because they don’t feel the crime against them rises to the level of law enforcement involvement. We want the community to know that any crime motivated by hate or bias is unacceptable. The Heritage Affairs Section, and our department, supports affected communities during these unprecedented times,” said Colonel Evanchick.

You can find a list of state police stations here. For more information on hate crimes and the Heritage Affairs Section, visit psp.pa.gov.

 MEDIA CONTACT: Trooper Brent Miller or Ryan Tarkowski, 717-783-5556

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State Police Refines Response Guidelines for Certain Non-Emergency Incidents



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2020

State Police Refines Response Guidelines for Certain Non-Emergency Incidents

Harrisburg, PA – Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, announced today a temporary change to the way troopers respond to select non-emergency incidents. With the goal of limiting in-person contact and mitigating the spread of COVID-19, the department has identified certain types of calls that may be resolved with limited or no on-scene response. The change went into effect April 1, 2020 and will remain until further notice.

“To enhance social distancing and keep our personnel and the public safe and healthy, we will begin collecting information via telephone for incidents that do not require an in-person response from a trooper,” said Colonel Evanchick. “This change affects only a limited number of call types, and the public can be confident that the PSP has the personnel, equipment, and plans in place to respond to emergencies and other critical incidents.”

Call types eligible for a modified response include lost and found items, littering, identity theft, and general requests to speak to a trooper. While limiting in-person contact and collecting as much information via telephone is the goal, the actual response will be based on the totality of the circumstances of each unique situation in consultation with a supervisor on duty. State police response protocol to emergencies and crimes in progress remains unchanged.

The department asks the public to be mindful of social distancing if they need to visit their local PSP station. Signs have been posted at each entrance instructing visitors not to enter the facility if they are experiencing symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Instead, they are instructed to contact the station by phone to speak to a trooper who may come outside to resolve the situation one-on-one if needed.

“Our facilities remain open as a public resource 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Colonel Evanchick. “Essential personnel remain ready to assist as needed during this unprecedented public health crisis, and we appreciate the public’s continued support.”

For a list of PSP stations, visit psp.pa.gov.

MEDIA CONTACT: Trooper Brent Miller or Ryan Tarkowski, 717-783-5556

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Governor Wolf: Request for Major Disaster Declaration Approved

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2020
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Governor Wolf: Request for Major Disaster Declaration Approved

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today announced the approval of part of his request to the President for a major disaster declaration to support state, county and local response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Pennsylvania.

“We are grateful for federal funding that will support all levels of government as we work together to stop the spread, and support those who care for the ill,” said Governor Wolf. “But I remain unwavering in my call for the approval of the rest of my request, which will provide more direct support to our friends and neighbors who are facing financial difficulties that otherwise could be insurmountable.”

Under the major disaster declaration, state, county and municipal governments, as well as eligible private non-profits can receive reimbursement for up to 75 percent of eligible expenses related to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Eligible expenses can include but are not limited to costs associated with paying overtime, or materials and equipment purchases. The declaration also provides direct federal assistance, which provides federal materials and supplies to support state and local response efforts.

In the coming weeks, staff from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency will reach out to potential applicants to view the application process and necessary documentation. As the response period for the COVID-19 outbreak is continuing, the process will take weeks. All reimbursements are handled electronically.

Governor Wolf said his request for other federal aid remains under consideration. His letter to the President included the following Individual Assistance programs: Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program; and Statewide Hazard Mitigation.

It is not known how soon a determination will be made about the rest of his request. Governor Wolf signed a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for the COVID-19 outbreak, which is a required step to request a federal major disaster declaration, on March 6, 2020.

MEDIA CONTACT:    Lyndsay Kensinger, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
                                   
Ruth Miller, PEMA: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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