New Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services

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

On August 17, Governor Tom Wolf announced that he asked the current Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller to take over as the Secretary of the Department of Human Services (DHS).  Miller accepted and took over as Acting Secretary on August 21, replacing Secretary Ted Dallas.

Secretary Dallas has been out on medical leave since mid-June.  It is expected that Dallas will join Wolf’s executive office staff when he returns.  Secretary Miller was already tapped by Governor Wolf to lead the proposed unified department of health and human services that has yet to be approved by the legislature.  In the coming weeks, the Government Affairs Office (GAO) plans to meet with Secretary Miller to introduce her to BAYADA.

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.