PA Governor Tom Wolf Nominates New Secretary of Aging

Robert Torres will head the Department of Aging, replacing former secretary Teresa Osborne

As Pennsylvania begins another legislative session Governor Tom Wolf will be nominating cabinet members to serve as departmental leaders within his administration for the next four years. Robert Torres will be nominated as Secretary of the Department of Aging on to replace Teresa Osborne’s vacancy as she is nominated for the state’s civil service commission.

The Secretary of the Department of Aging is responsible for the administration of all aging programs in Pennsylvania, as well as to promote the protection for residents of the Commonwealth. This position is important to BAYADA as they oversee many of the waivers that we utilize for the large population of seniors that we serve in one of the top “graying” states in the country.

Robert Torres most recently served as the Secretary of the Commonwealth, a position he has held since 2017. Prior to that, Torres served in the State Department as Executive Deputy Secretary and as Deputy Secretary of Administration for the State Department of Health. In the private sector, Robert Torres was the Vice President of health information technology at Capital Blue Cross and at General Dynamics Information Technology.

Pennsylvania Government Affairs Director Laura Ness recently asked ambassadors to send welcome letters to the new Secretary of Aging. Join us in welcoming Robert Torres to this important position. GAO is excited to work with Secretary Torres and his team to help older adults living in Pennsylvania access the care they need.

PA Long-Term Care Council Workforce Committee Meets to Discuss Data Needs

Submitted by Laura Ness, Director, PA Government Affairs (GAO)

Last week, the Long-Term Care Council met in Harrisburg along with the various sub-committees.  The Workforce Committee continued the discussion regarding how we continue to care the aging Pennsylvanians.  It was clear that direct care workers are the foundation of caring for older Pennsylvanians.  There was also the recognition that more direct care workers will be needed and recruited for the role.  The majority of our time was spent discussing the data needed to make the case for higher pay, better support, and professionalizing the profession.  The Government Affairs Office (GAO) is looking forward to continuing our work with the group.

BAYADA Direct Care Worker named 2017 Pennsylvania Department of Aging Direct Care Worker of the Year!

Submitted by Laura Ness, Director, PA Government Affairs (GAO)

Each year the PA Department of Aging and the Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA) request nominations for the Direct Care Worker (DCW) of the Year.  The DCW is an individual who goes above and beyond in their work and provides essential services to older Pennsylvanians and disabled adults.

This year there were over 160 nominations. BAYADA nominated 21 aides from our offices.

The award was given at PHA’s Direct Care Worker Forum in Harrisburg. Each aide that was nominated was invited to attend. The day consisted of professional development, a motivational speaker and a DCW survey on the challenges of the profession.

Towards the end of the event PA Department of Aging Secretary named  BAYADA Philadelphia Corporation of Aging –West Home Health Aide Anne Pannone as the DCW of the year.

Anne will be recognized again at the PHA Annual Conference in the Poconos.

Congratulations to all the aides who were nominated.

Click here to read the BAYADA Blog article about Anne

Click here to see photos from the event

GAO Makes Progress on Rate Increase During Meeting with Senator Scott Wagner

Submitted by Laura Ness, Director, PA Government Affairs (GAO)

On April 6th BAYADA Leaders, including Practice President David Baiada, Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro, Assistive Care State Programs (ACSP) Practice Leader Eric Thul, Crocus Division Director Kevin Kuzmick, PCA Director Donna Russell-Kane, and I  met with Senator and Gubernatorial Candidate Scott Wagner.  This meeting was a result of a previous meeting that Dave Totaro and I had with Senator Wagner introducing the need to increase the personal assistant services (PAS) rate under the Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) by an average of 10%.

The meeting took place in the BAYADA PCA office. We discussed the ACSP business, its challenges and advantages, as well as the wage issues associated with the program.  Senator Wagner also heard first-hand about what it’s like to be a home health aide from PA Department of Aging’s Direct Care Worker of the Year, BAYADA aide Anne Pannone. 

The conversation was productive, and Senator Wagner understands the value of home care and the cost savings it can provide to the Commonwealth. He has agreed to help us in our legislative priority of increasing the PAS rates and would also like to spend a day in the field with Anne to see the work first-hand.

We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Wagner.

Mike Sokoloski Transitions to Manager of Grassroots Advocacy for BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office

Submitted by Lee Dobson, Area Director (GAO)

​I am thrilled to announce that Mike Sokoloski transitioned from community liaison to join BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office (GAO) team on Monday, March 13. He is the first manager of our grassroots advocacy efforts.

In this new role, Mike is responsible for overseeing and leading the work of BAYADA’s Hearts for Homecare, a companywide grassroots advocacy program that was created to support and help achieve our long-term vision. He will not only lead the Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Program in five states—Delaware, North Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania—but will also create an outreach program to engage our field employees in advocacy. They are on the front lines of care delivery and, as many of our priorities directly impact them, this new program will give our field employees a voice to share their powerful stories. While Mike will report directly to me, he will support the other GAO state directors in their grassroots initiatives.

Prior to his transition, Mike was a community liaison for six years for two of BAYADA’s adult home care offices in northeastern PA, where he successfully managed relationships with referral sources in the community. Mike was appointed to the PA Long-Term Care Council in October of 2016 by Governor Tom Wolf as the only home care representative. He is an appointed member of the Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging Advisory Board, serving since 2013. He is also vice-president of the Northeast PA Aging Network Alliance, promoting awareness of services and issues affecting older adults in northeastern PA.

As community liaison, Mike was no stranger to government affairs. For his efforts, he was named BAYADA’s Ambassador of the Year 2014 and 2015, and PA Ambassador of the Year 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. His past success makes him an excellent choice to boost our grassroots advocacy efforts.

Mike’s immediate areas of focus include enhancing the Ambassador Program through mentorship and support of our active Ambassadors, and developing an outreach platform—piloting it in Pennsylvania—to engage our field employees, who are an untapped voice for advocacy.

Please join me in welcoming Mike to GAO!

Pennsylvania House And Senate Appropriations Committees Host Marathon Hearings

Submitted by Laura Ness, Director, PA Government Affairs (GAO)

Last week, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee hosted hearings for the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Department of Aging, the Department of Health, and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. This was an opportunity for the various secretaries to defend the Governor’s proposed 2017-2018 budget.

Each hearing lasted for five hours and covered a variety of subjects.  Much of the discussion centered around the value of home care and Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour. During the hearing, DHS Secretary Ted Dallas acknowledged if the minimum wage is increased, the state will also need to increase reimbursement rates. Secretary Dallas claims a $12 minimum wage would lift 145,000 Pennsylvanians out of poverty and off of assistance. The secretary has calculated that it would save the state $48 million in DHS spending.

PA Governor Tom Wolf Announces Plan to Consolidate Departments Crucial to Home Care

Submitted by Laura Ness, Director, PA Government Affairs (GAO)

During Governor Tom Wolf’s budget address, he proposed consolidating the Department of Human Services (formerly known as the Department of Public Welfare) the Department of Aging, the Department of Health, and the Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs.  If the consolidation goes through it will be called the PA Department of Health & Human Services.  It will also be one of the largest state agencies in the United States.  There are concerns by many advocacy groups that this could lead to additional bureaucracy and more items getting “lost in the shuffle”.  Wolf claims the consolidation will lead to seniors and disabled individuals having greater support and coordination of benefits.  BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office (GAO) will continue to track this proposal and evaluate the impact.  To read the full announcement click here.