Brain illustration with cracks.

PA changed its standard for involuntary mental health treatment earlier this year. So why aren’t counties using it?

Involuntary mental health treatment is a highly controversial issue among practitioners, advocates and those who have sought and received treatment. Some argue that involuntary treatment is the only way to guarantee that certain people get the help they need. Others say it infringes on a person’s civil rights and can push them away from seeking help in the future.

screenshot of video

‘Everybody is exposed to PFAS.’ To what extent and how? A video recapping the PFAS community education event

To further educate local residents and environmental groups about the threat of PFAS, PublicSource and Environmental Health News hosted a special forum on Sept. 12 at the Marriott Hotel near the Pittsburgh International Airport. The military bases near the airport are identified sites of PFAS contamination, and the airport is a potential source of contamination as well, according to reports from former firefighters, airport records, expert scientists and a military study. The panel included: Carla Ng, a PFAS researcher at the University of Pittsburgh; Lisa Daniels, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's director of the Bureau of Safe Drinking Water; Melanie Benesh, the legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that has done extensive PFAS research; Hope Grosse and Joanne Stanton, residents in Eastern Pennsylvania who have lived near PFAS contamination (via video chat); and Caitlin Berretta, the manager of business development at Evoqua, a company headquartered in Pittsburgh that does PFAS remediation. Editor's note: This event was part of an ongoing collaboration between Environmental Health News and PublicSource on PFAS contamination in Pennsylvania and was funded in part through the Bridge Pittsburgh Media Partnership.

How Karen Hacker worked to resuscitate the Allegheny County Health Department

Hacker, the county’s highest paid employee with a salary of more than $220,000, said she thinks she should be judged on the progress she’s helped to usher in, including reduced lead poisoning in children, fewer opioid overdose deaths and a steady decline in air pollution that is on the verge of coming into compliance with the law.

But a number of constraints made the work difficult.

A tale of two fires: Allegheny County health officials change approach after second fire at U.S. Steel’s Clairton plant

After a Dec. 24 fire at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works, Allegheny County Health Department officials discussed internally how to respond. The department considered issuing an emergency order to require U.S. Steel to take steps to reduce its emissions, email records show. Officials went as far as drafting such an order, they said. But they didn’t issue it because the company was already voluntarily taking many of the steps the county believed would keep residents safe.