TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR OCTOBER 14TH, 2022

An ex-caretaker who bragged about abusing special needs patients at a Beaver County facility has pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges.  Zachary Dinell and another caretaker — Tyler Smith — were indicted earlier this year after they were prosecuted in state court for assault of special needs patients at McGuire Memorial in Daugherty.  Dinell was sentenced two years ago to a state prison term of up to 31 years in relation to the attacks at the facility.  Prosecutors say the two carried out attacks on the patients, who cannot speak or report what happened to them.  

State regulators are scheduled to soon present a final rule cracking down on so-called “forever chemicals” in Pennsylvania drinking water.  The rules would set the first-ever threshold for reducing contamination from PFAS chemicals to protect public health.  However, compliance is expected to cost water companies millions of dollars per year.  Industry experts say some of that cost almost certainly will be passed to customers.

A group of Canadian companies has bought Westinghouse Electric, one of the largest nuclear power companies in the world.  Based in Cranberry Township, Westinghouse Electric is valued at seven-point-eight billion dollars.  Company officials expect the acquisition to close by the end of next year.     

President Joe Biden is planning another visit to Steel City this month.  White House officials say the president is stopping in Pittsburgh on October 20th.  He was last in the area on Labor Day to address attendees with the United Steelworkers in West Mifflin.  Further details of the visit have not yet been released.  He is also slated to appear at a John Fetterman fundraiser in Philadelphia.

A national transportation research group rates Pennsylvania’s rural roads and bridges among the worst in the country.  A report released this week by TRIP ranks the Keystone State at number 13 for having the most deteriorated infrastructure.  The report evaluated the condition of the bridges and their safety and found that 15-percent of rural bridges and about 18-percent of rural roads in the state are in poor condition.  The report indicates that traffic deaths on the state’s rural roads is about double the rate on all other roads.

State rules affecting relocation of natural gas meters in historic districts may soon be a thing of the past.  In a legal fight pitting safety concerns against aesthetic concerns, a divided Commonwealth Court has blocked enforcement of the rules.  It says the rules represent an unconstitutional delegation of authority by state utility regulators.  A Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission spokesman says the decision is under review.

A new state commission charged with delegating funding for mental health services has made its recommendations. The Behavioral Health Commission for Adult Mental Health submitted its report Tuesday on how to best use 100-million-dollars in federal ARPA money. Recommendations include funding workforce development, expansion of current services as well as funds for the criminal justice system. More than a third of Pennsylvanians have a mental illness or substance use disorder.

Researchers at UPMC Health have developed an app to help young people cope with anxiety and depression.  It was prescribed to a little under 300 young people who used it to contact a mental health expert when they were feeling symptoms.  UPMC officials say preliminary results indicate that 73-percent of users reduced their anxiety and nearly 60-percent saw reduced depression.  More studies will focus also on suicidal tendencies.

A measure has been approved in the Pennsylvania House that would create guidelines for paying people who are wrongfully convicted. The bipartisan HB 2794 would create a process for individuals to seek compensation for time spent in prison or parole.  The bill lays out specific tiers for payment based on particular offenses.  Any damages awarded wouldn’t be subject to state taxes.