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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: March 29, 2018 09:29 AM
From: Senator Jay Costa
To: All Senate members
Subject: Public Health Emergency Declarations
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation that will provide the Department of Health the ability to declare public health emergencies in the case of several types of events. The declaration would last 90 days, unless extended by the Secretary of the Department of Health.

Currently, the Governor has declared a disaster emergency to provide state government and public health providers with additional tools to fight the opioid epidemic. However, a public health emergency declaration would be better suited for this crisis.

The bill defines a public health emergency an event that poses an imminent threat and meets two criteria:
  1. Is caused by:
    1. A bioterrorist event, a biological, chemical or nuclear agent, a chemical attack, or a nuclear attack;
    2. The appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious disease;
    3. A natural disaster, accidental chemical release, or nuclear incident; or
    4. A disease outbreak; and
  2. Poses a high probability of:
    1. Deaths;
    2. Serious or long-term disabilities; or
    3. Widespread exposure to an infectious or toxic agent that poses significant risk or substantial present or future harm to a large number of people.
Such a declaration would authorize the Department of Health to waive regulations, create new temporary regulations, publish notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin for tracking and treating a disease, illness, or event, and allow public workers to provide treatment to control the emergency.

Information that is collected by the Department of Health and other government agencies to treat the public health emergency would not be subject to the Right-to-Know Law. And the temporary regulations would not be subject to the Commonwealth Documents Law, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Act, and the Regulatory Review Act. These temporary regulations would expire 90 days following the end of a declaration.

Lastly, the bill provides some immunity from liability for individuals responsible for carrying out the provision of the future act.

Please join me in cosponsoring the important legislation.

Introduced as SB1001