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Financial Education Conference for Military, Vets on August 8 in Johnstown

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Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Military Finance Alliance announces a free conference in Johnstown to educate members of the military, veterans, and their families on the unique financial and investment decisions they will face. The “Making $ense of Finance” conference will take place on August 8, 2018, at the Hiram G. Andrews Center, Commonwealth Technical Institute, 727 Goucher Street in Johnstown from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

Programs offered at the conference include:

  • Scambusters: An interactive game designed by the Better Business Bureau to help you tell the difference between a legitimate deal and a scam.
  • Dream Big Plan Now: Making Your Ideal Retirement a Reality: This presentation covers five steps to retirement planning; income sources in retirement; military retirement pay; saving and investing with employer plans, Thrift Savings Plan, IRAs; military retirement benefits.
  • Investing BasicsBuilding Your Cash Snowball: This presentation covers ways to invest, misconceptions about the amount of money needed to start investing, the effect of compounding interest, and how to protect your investment.
  • Credit Reports and Credit Scores: This presentation will help people learn how to read and understand a credit report, where to obtain it, what to do about errors, and how to improve your score and creditworthiness.
  • Budgeting for All AgesBuild Wealth not Debt: This presentation is designed to help you set financial goals, build a spending plan, and gain control over your finances.

Registration is required for this “Making $ense of Finance” conference. Complimentary food and drinks and free parking will be provided. Liberty USO will be awarding raffle prizes to those attending the conference. Space is limited. Registration and conference information are available at https://www.secure.dobs.pa.gov//msof/johnstown.

“Making $ense of Finance” is made possible through the Pennsylvania Military Finance Alliance, a cooperative effort of the PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the PA Department of Banking and Securities, the PA Office of Attorney General, Pennsylvania Military OneSource, Better Business Bureau, Liberty USO, Army Community Service, PA National Guard, and Advantage Credit Counseling Services.

For more information about the conference, call Tina Pelesky at 814-255-0355 or email peletskyt@atlanticbbn.net. Members of the public with questions or complaints about financial products and services can call 1-800-PA-BANKS (or 1-800-600-0007).

Financial Education Conference for Military, Vets on September 7 in Annville

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Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Military Finance Alliance announces a free conference in Annville to educate members of the military, veterans, and their families on the unique financial and investment decisions they will face. The “Making $ense of Finance” conference will take place on September 7, 2018, at Ft. Indiantown Gap, Building 8-80, 880 Bearty Avenue in Annville from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

Programs offered at the conference include:

  • Scambusters: An interactive game designed by the Better Business Bureau to help you tell the difference between a legitimate deal and a scam.
  • Dream Big Plan Now: Making Your Ideal Retirement a Reality: This presentation covers five steps to retirement planning; income sources in retirement; military retirement pay; saving and investing with employer plans, Thrift Savings Plan, IRAs; military retirement benefits.
  • Investing BasicsBuilding Your Cash Snowball: This presentation covers ways to invest, misconceptions about the amount of money needed to start investing, the effect of compounding interest, and how to protect your investment.
  • Credit Reports and Credit Scores: This presentation will help people learn how to read and understand a credit report, where to obtain it, what to do about errors, and how to improve your score and creditworthiness.
  • Budgeting for All AgesBuild Wealth not Debt: This presentation is designed to help you set financial goals, build a spending plan, and gain control over your finances.

Registration is required for this “Making $ense of Finance” conference. Complimentary food and drinks and free parking will be provided. Liberty USO will be awarding raffle prizes to those attending the conference. Space is limited. Registration and conference information are available at https://www.secure.dobs.pa.gov/msof/fig.

“Making $ense of Finance” is made possible through the Pennsylvania Military Finance Alliance, a cooperative effort of the PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the PA Department of Banking and Securities, the PA Office of Attorney General, Pennsylvania Military OneSource, Better Business Bureau, Liberty USO, Army Community Service, PA National Guard, and Advantage Credit Counseling Services.

For more information about the conference, call 717-705-2687 or email informed@pa.gov. Members of the public with questions or complaints about financial products and services can call 1-800-PA-BANKS (or 1-800-600-0007).

Volunteer Scambusters Honored for Service to Senior Citizens

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Harrisburg, PA – Today, Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann recognized 12 senior citizens for their work with the Campaign for Wise and Safe Investing (“Campaign”) and announced the renewal of a $120,000 grant from the Investor Protection Trust (“IPT”) to continue funding for the Campaign. The event marked a 10-year partnership with AARP Pennsylvania and the IPT in protecting senior citizens from fraud and scams.

“With World Elder Abuse Awareness Day approaching on June 15, Governor Wolf and I are proud to support the work of AARP Pennsylvania and its army of volunteers, and we are grateful for the support of the Investor Protection Trust,” said Wiessmann. “Through programs like the Campaign for Wise and Safe Investing, we are creating a network of support for our senior citizens and taking active steps to protect senior citizens from elder financial abuse.”

The AARP volunteers honored today at a ceremony in the capitol include:

  • Mary Bach, Chair of the AARP Consumer Issues Task Force, from Murrysville (Westmoreland County)
  • David Aitken from Beaver (Beaver County)
  • Eileen Mazza from Eighty Four (Washington County)
  • Allan Michael and Paige Michael from Orangeville (Columbia County)
  • Bruce Myers from Seven Valleys (York County)
  • Frances G. Scalise from State College (Centre County)
  • Deirdre Spelman from Scranton (Lackawanna County)
  • Richard Sterner from Mechanicsburg (Cumberland County)
  • Theresa Thomas-Trainer from Philadelphia
  • Anthony M. Wolchasty from Southampton (Bucks)
  • Mary Wozniak from Bethlehem (Northampton County)

The Campaign is a statewide community outreach program offered by the Pennsylvania AARP Consumer Issues Task Force and the Department of Banking and Securities, and funded by IPT, which provides retirees and senior citizens information on how to recognize, avoid, and report financial fraud and abuse. AARP volunteers work with community groups throughout Pennsylvania to provide their peers with information to protect and grow their money in retirement.

“Every day, older Americans become victims of elder investment fraud and financial exploitation. It is part of IPT’s mission to educate older adults to recognize and prevent fraud and to protect their hard-earned financial nest eggs,” said President and CEO of IPT, Don Blandin. “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day gives us a powerful opportunity to raise awareness about elder fraud and to continue efforts to strengthen older adults, their families and the caring communities that support them. In the spirit of building coalitions, I thank all attendees for your leadership and contributions to investor education and protection during these turbulent economic times.”

AARP Pennsylvania State Director Bill Johnston-Walsh pointed to several achievements and landmarks during the 10-year partnership:

  • Since the Campaign began, AARP volunteers have made 1,110 presentations.
  • More than 49,000 Pennsylvania senior citizens have received information about “red flags” warning them of possible financial frauds and scams.
  • The Pennsylvania Campaign for Wise and Safe Investing has been recognized as a “best practice” by the Investor Protection Trust.

“At AARP, we’re very pleased to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Pennsylvania’s Campaign for Wise and Safe Investing that is educating older adults statewide about ways to avoid financial fraud and scams,” Johnston-Walsh said. “We’re especially proud of the AARP volunteers who are leading the campaign’s community outreach component by conducting more than 1,100 investor education presentations for nearly 50,000 state residents over that same time period.”

Wiessmann noted that the cost of financial exploitation of senior citizens in the United States is estimated to be as much as $36 billion each year, and that Adult Protective Services in Pennsylvania reports that financial exploitation is the #1 reported abuse of senior citizens.

AARP is a nonprofit organization with a membership of nearly 38 million. Information about its work in Pennsylvania can be found online: https://states.aarp.org/region/pennsylvania. The Investor Protection Trust is a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education. Information about the work of IPT can be found online: www.investorprotection.org.

Anyone can contact the Department of Banking and Securities at 1-800-PA-BANKS or 1-800-600-0007 to ask questions or file complaints about financial transactions, companies, or products. Consumers and community groups can call 1-800-PA-BANKS or email informed@pa.gov for more information.

July Consumer Outreach Schedule Announced

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Harrisburg, PA – Education and outreach staff from the Department of Banking and Securities will be meeting with senior citizens and the public across Pennsylvania during the month of July to promote financial capability as part of Governor Tom Wolf’s Consumer Financial Protection Initiative.

For Senior Citizens

 Department staff will offer a presentation combining several different topics – “About the Department of Banking and Securities,” “Avoiding Scams and ID Theft,” and “Cybersecurity: Staying Safe Online” – at the following locations:

  • LifeSpan in McKeesport (Allegheny County) on July 9 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM. (Open to Senior Companions ONLY)
  • Human Services Building in Pittsburgh (Allegheny County) on July 10 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM. (Open to Senior Companions ONLY)
  • Human Services in Pittsburgh (Allegheny County) on July 11 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM. (Open to Senior Company program participants ONLY)

Outreach staff will be available at Sen. Mario Scavello’s Senior Expo, being co-hosted with Rep. Rosemary Brown and Rep. Jack Rader, at Pocono Mountain Swiftwater Elementary Center at 135 Academic Drive in Swiftwater (Monroe County) on July 16 from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

The presentation “Avoiding Scams and ID Theft” – which helps consumers protect themselves from financial scams as well as informs victims of scams on how to get help – will be offered at the following locations:

  • The Williamsport Home, 1900 Ravine Road in Williamsport (Lycoming County)
    • July 19 from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM (Open to residents of Building A ONLY)
    • July 19 from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM (Open to residents of Building C ONLY)
    • July 20 from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM (Open to residents of Building B ONLY)
  • ​Hamlin Senior Center, 15 Township Building Road in Hamlin (Wyoming County) on July 31 from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM.

For General Public

The department will attend the 2nd Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Symposium at The Inn at Reading in Wyomissing (Berks County) on July 13 from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM. (Open to invited guests ONLY)

The presentation “Cybersecurity – Staying Safe on the Internet” – covering key topics such as using secure websites, creating strong passwords, being aware of what you put on social media, and even tips for shopping online safely – will be offered at Lycoming County CareerLink, 329 Pine Street in Williamsport (Lycoming County) on July 18 from 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM. Registration is required by calling CareerLink at 570-601-5465.

The presentation “Cybersecurity – Staying Safe on the Internet” will be offered with “Consumer Fraud Bingo” – an interactive presentation to help participants learn ways to protect themselves from investment fraud and other financial scams – at Memorial Homes, 1609 Memorial Avenue in Williamsport (Lycoming County) on July 18 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

The presentation “Investing 101” – an introduction to saving and investing for future goals with an emphasis on retirement – will be offered at PA CareerLink Bucks County at Bristol, 1260 Veterans Way in Bristol (Bucks County) on July 25 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

The department’s Investor Education and Consumer Outreach staff works with state and local government agencies, service providers, community and trade organizations, the General Assembly, the military community, schools, and other partners to help Pennsylvanians across the commonwealth become well-informed about the financial marketplace. There are a variety of free, non-commercial programs [PDF] and presentations [PDF] available, or a program can be tailored to a specific group’s needs.

DCNR Highlights Plan to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change on Public Lands

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Harrisburg, PA – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn today is releasing the department’s Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Plan (PDF) outlining 123 action steps to be undertaken to make the commonwealth more resilient to potential impacts from a changing climate.

“As the state’s leading conservation agency, DCNR is using the best available science to develop and implement climate change strategies to minimize and adapt to these impacts, and serve as a role model for the citizens of Pennsylvania,” Dunn said.

The secretary will highlight climate change resiliency during keynote remarks tonight at the annual Pennsylvania Environmental Council dinner in Philadelphia.

During 2017, staff members from across all of DCNR’s bureaus participated in a rigorous process to determine and prioritize the department’s greatest climate change vulnerabilities, and identify strategies to address them.

Dunn noted efforts are already underway to implement recommendations, including significant work over the past several years on energy conservation and renewable energy in DCNR’s hundreds of buildings and vehicle fleet, and the department’s leadership of the movement to plant trees along streams to improve water quality and address impacts from climate change.

Getting underway this year is an effort to increase staff knowledge and expertise on climate change challenges and solutions through a newly-formed communication and education team.

To test adaptive management practices on the ground, DCNR will be launching a climate change adaptation pilot project on public lands in the southcentral part of the state, including the 85,000-acre Michaux State Forest, and Kings Gap, Pine Grove Furnace, and Caledonia state parks.

The 53-page plan including the vulnerabilities and recommendations was developed with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, and can be found on the DCNR Climate Change web page.

Pennsylvania is experiencing higher temperatures; increased precipitation; higher numbers of storm events; decreased snow cover; and changing distribution of some plants and animals related to climate change.

DCNR’s mission is to conserve and sustain Pennsylvania’s natural resources for present and future generations’ use and enjoyment.

Wolf Administration Joins Celebration of Loyalsock Creek’s 2018 River of the Year Honor, Marking PA Rivers Month

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​Williamsport, PA – Today, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined state and local officials, and Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association members in celebrating the designation of Loyalsock Creek as Pennsylvania’s 2018 River of the Year.

DCNR has invested $40,000 to develop a river conservation plan for Loyalsock Creek and has approved a $10,000 grant to the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association for stream-based support events, education and celebrations throughout 2018.

“As Governor Wolf noted in his proclamation naming June ‘Pennsylvania Rivers Month’ and commending the Loyalsock and its supporters, healthy, rebounding waterways are a boon to area communities,” Dunn said. “A major tributary to the Susquehanna, the Loyalsock draws legions of paddlers, anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts to its waters, as well as neighboring businesses. Events like this serve economic revitalization by enhancing access to the stream; increasing tourism; and providing additional land and water-based recreational opportunities for area residents and visitors alike.”

Held to commemorate PA Rivers Month, the River of the Year celebration highlights the state’s wealth of rivers and streams, and recognizes their supporters. Its includes a sojourn on a stretch of the Loyalsock, which Dunn will be joining Saturday.

“We are delighted to share time with Secretary Dunn as we celebrate the creek’s River of the Year designation today, and paddle on the Loyalsock to the West Branch Susquehanna River on Saturday,” Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Carol Parenzan. “Not only are we connecting community to the creek but the creek to the river. We all live upstream. We are all the first source for clean water. We look forward to seeing the Loyalsock Creek through the eyes of Secretary Dunn.”

Loyalsock Creek flows through Worlds End State Park, a highly popular destination state park encompassing 780 acres, and Loyalsock State Forest. Nearby is the Loyalsock Trail, a well-traveled 59-mile trail providing vistas overlooking the stream below.

Presented annually since 1983, Pennsylvania Organization of Waterways (POWR) administers the River of the Year program with funding from DCNR. A commemorative River of the Year sojourn is among many paddling trips supported by DCNR and POWR each year. An independent program, the Pennsylvania Sojourn Program, is a unique series of trips on state waterways. These water-based journeys for canoeists, kayakers and others raise awareness of the environmental, recreational, tourism and heritage values of rivers. For more information about the sojourn program, visit the POWR website.

To learn more about the River of the Year program, the nominated waterways, and past winners, visit the Pennsylvania River of the Year website.

To learn more about DCNR’s Rivers Program, visit the DCNR’s Rivers Conservation web page.

Pennsylvania Names New District Forester at Buchanan State Forest District

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Harrisburg, PA – Today, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced the appointment of Jason Hall as district forester of the Buchanan State Forest District, based in Fulton County.

“Interwoven in Jason’s 18 years of service with the bureau is a rich blend of managerial talents that saw him shine, regardless of the post,” Dunn said. “His command of forestry topics and public relations skills all equate to solid future leadership for the Buchanan State Forest District.”

Hall will transition into his new post over the next several weeks, overseeing a district headquartered in McConnellsburg, Fulton County, that includes Franklin, Fulton, and Bedford counties. State forestland within the district totals 71,683 acres and features three Wild and Natural Areas. With its panoramic views, over 206 miles of trails, and Tuscarora and Tussey mountain adventures, Buchanan draws legions of outdoors enthusiasts through all seasons.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get back into the field to be able to more directly connect with and manage the state forest,” Hall said. “I’m also hoping to be able to use my experience working in the bureau’s Harrisburg headquarters to help foster positive and productive relationships with the Buchanan Forest District’s constituents in order to help carry our bureau’s mission forward.”

A native of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, Hall graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science in Forest Science in 1999. He began his career in the Bureau of Forestry in 2000 as a service forester in the Gallitzin State Forest District, Cambria County. In 2003, Hall transferred to the Division of Operations and Recreation in Harrisburg, where he worked nine years as a Forest Program Specialist. Hall has spent the last six years as the Forest Program Manager for the Recreation Section.

Hall’s many areas of responsibility have included state forest leased camps, and Forest Land Beautification, Pennsylvania Conservation Corp, and Ranger programs. He has served as Bureau of Forestry Safety Coordinator and recreational specialist for seven different forest districts.

The new district forester will oversee forest-growth management, personnel coordination, infrastructure maintenance, recreation, and fire prevention and suppression at Buchanan. He also will manage service foresters who provide support, direction and technical assistance to private forest landowners. Hall, 43, succeeds Jim Smith, who in retired in 2017.

For more information on Buchanan and Pennsylvania’s 19 other state forest districts, visit DCNR’s Find a Forest web page

Wolf Administration Officials Visit State Park, Borough Job Sites of Young Workers Employed by the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps

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Barnesville, Schuylkill County, PA – Today, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and other state officials visited two projects underway by the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps at Locust Lake State Park, Schuylkill County, and Clarks Summit Borough, Lackawanna County.

The highly acclaimed Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps is a Wolf Administration initiative offering work experience, job training, and educational opportunities to young people who complete recreation and conservation projects on Pennsylvania’s public lands.

The program helps protect and restore natural resources while providing young people with the knowledge to be good stewards of the environment.

“Beginning its third year of operation, the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps certainly is emerging as a ‘win-win’ effort for all involved,” Dunn said. “You young men and women who will accomplish so much here at Locust Lake are indicative of the corps’ spirit and commitment I’ve seen in state parks and forests across the state.”

Dunn joined other participants at the state park event in meeting members of the Hazleton-based youth corps and visiting one of their project sites, where they are rebuilding trails and repairing fencing.

The DCNR group then traveled to Clarks Summit, Lackawanna County, where Wilkes-Barre-based youth corps members are helping the local shade tree commission inventory trees.

Employed across the state in paid positions, corps members have contributed to public lands by undertaking light construction, invasive species management, and the rehabilitation of green space, shorelines, nature trails, and park and forest structures.

Initial roll-out of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps in July 2016 was financed through the Department of Labor & Industry’s Reemployment Fund. The Department of Labor & Industry remains a program co-sponsor.

The corps is based in state park and forest locations in rural and urban areas, particularly those areas close to disadvantaged communities and school districts.

Crews are dispatched within the region, working on public lands with resource and infrastructure project needs.

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps consists of two components: a seven-week, summer program for youth between the ages of 15-18; and a 10-month program for young adults ages 18-25.

Locations were set up across the state to help facilitate participation by youth and young adults in disadvantaged communities. Crew bases include:

  • Altoona
  • Erie
  • Greensburg
  • Harrisburg
  • Hazleton
  • McConnellsburg
  • Meadville
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Reading
  • Renovo
  • Saint Marys
  • Uniontown
  • Wellsboro
  • Wilkes-Barre
  • Williamsport
  • York

To oversee the program, DCNR recently appointed Michael D. Piaskowski as manager of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps. Statewide efforts are overseen by the Student Conservation Association (SCA), America’s oldest and largest youth conservation organization. For more information, visit www.thesca.org.

For more details on the Pennsylvania Outdoors Corps, visit DCNR’s website.

Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Joins Rite Aid to Launch In-Store Medication Disposal Unit

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Lemoyne, PA – Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith today joined Rite Aid’s President and Chief Operating Officer Kermit Crawford, United States Representative Scott Perry, and State Representative Sheryl Delozier to launch the pharmacy’s first in-store medication disposal unit. Rite Aid’s unit – with a total of 100 planned at stores nationwide – joins the more than 730 prescription drug take-back boxes available in pharmacies, Pennsylvania State Police barracks, and local police and government offices around the commonwealth.

“As the Wolf Administration fights the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic, we need strong partnerships between the public and private sectors to maximize response on all fronts,” said Secretary Smith.  “Increasing availability and awareness of take-back boxes makes Pennsylvanians safer, and I thank Rite Aid for their commitment to fighting this crisis.”

Medication disposal units, or take-back boxes, allow people to take an active role in making their homes and communities safer by lowering the risk of prescription drug misuse. More than 52,000 pounds of prescription drugs have been disposed of in 2018. To date, 400,000 pounds of prescription drugs have been safely disposed of at Pennsylvania’s take-back boxes since 2014.

Secretary Smith encouraged Pennsylvanians with unused and unneeded medications to utilize this and other safe disposal units around Pennsylvania.

“Prescription drug misuse is a major catalyst for the heroin and opioid epidemic that we are fighting every day, and too many people with an opioid use disorder obtain medicine from family and friends’ medicine cabinets,” she said. “Disposing of medication is a small step that can make a big difference towards protecting yourself and loved ones. I strongly encourage all Pennsylvanians to look through your medicine cabinets, find old or unneeded medications, and locate a take-back box near you.”

A map of take-back box locations searchable by county and zip code can be found on the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs’ website.

For more information on the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania, visit www.pa.gov/opioids

Wolf Administration Offers Advice on How to Spot Potential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Scams

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Harrisburg, PA – Wolf Administration officials with the mother of a Pennsylvania man who was recruited to an out-of-state treatment facility today issued a warning to Pennsylvanians to be wary of predatory practices used by some addiction treatment centers and sober living homes, many of which are located outside of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith and Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman were joined by Lizz DeWolfe, founder of Not One More in Wyoming County and mother of J.J. Baker, who died of an opioid overdose at 23 after having sought treatment at a Florida treatment facility.

“The opioid epidemic has made families desperate to get help for their loved ones and has unfortunately opened the door to unscrupulous people who prey on these families to lure unsuspecting individuals in need of treatment to facilities that may provide little or no treatment, and can lead to more problems, including financial ruin, and even death,” said Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman.  “Operators of these facilities have also found ways to bilk insurers and consumers out of hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars, through fake and inflated insurance claims.”

“While there are many reputable facilities in other states, instances of individuals being recruited to other treatment centers with offers of payment for travel or health insurance coverage can lead to insurance fraud, misleading or dangerous living conditions, and individuals with substance use disorder failing to receive the treatment they need,” Jennifer Smith, Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs said.

“Individuals affected by substance use disorder and seeking recovery are among our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. Entering treatment can be a pivotal step in one’s recovery journey, and we must be sure that they are able to do so in a safe and supportive environment. I strongly encourage Pennsylvanians seeking treatment for themselves or a loved one to utilize their Single County Authority (SCA), the local drug and alcohol treatment information centers in Pennsylvania’s counties to help locate a DDAP-licensed treatment facility, or the free PA Get Help now at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SCAs receive funding through DDAP that will help if you are not sure how you will pay for treatment.

The Washington Post reported earlier this year federal and state authorities in Florida charged the operators of one bogus operation alone with $58 million in fraudulent insurance claims. Facilities have been charged for billing insurers for services never provided, filing multiple claims for the same service, and charging exorbitant rates for drug testing.

A survey of Pennsylvania’s major health insurers, which cover approximately 70 percent of the commercial health insurance market, shows 7,157 Pennsylvanians insured by these companies received substance use disorder treatment out-of-state over the past two years. This is nearly 17 percent of all Pennsylvanians receiving substance use disorder treatment under insurance coverage from these insurers.

Despite the availability of treatment centers in Pennsylvania, recruiters will often use the lure of a sunny climate, free air travel, covering insurance payments, and a fresh start to lure people in need of treatment to facilities in other states, particularly Arizona, California, and Florida.

“Addiction is really complicated, and sometimes in our efforts to get our loved ones into recovery, we don’t see things that should make us ask questions,” DeWolfe said. “J.J. was offered free rent but we all know that nothing is free. Remember if they offer anything free, it is a sign that it may not be a reputable facility.”

After an initial, successful rehab, Baker relapsed, and returned to Florida in 2015, where he was offered a rent-free room at a recovery home while getting treatment. During this time, Baker’s parents received a bill of more than $208,000 for drug testing. In August 2015, he received a prescription from a doctor for testosterone. He showed the prescription to the house managers. The next day, he was evicted because the prescription violated the home’s rules.  Three days later Baker was found dead in his car from a heroin overdose.

“My hope is by telling my story other parents won’t go through what I did. Other parents need to know how important it is to do your research, ask questions, get referrals, see what the laws are in that state,” said DeWolfe. “If you receive a bill from the insurance company that feels out of the ordinary, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If I only would have known what I know now there is a chance my son would still be here.”

Smith and Altman said that there are several things people should look for to avoid falling victim to an out-of-state addiction treatment scam. These include:

  • Any unsolicited referral to an out-of-state treatment facility;
  • Someone offering to pay for airfare or other travel expenses to an out-of-state facility;
  • Someone offering to pay for insurance coverage — these payments could end at any time leaving you with no coverage;
  • Someone asking you to provide personal information, such as your Social Security number or insurance policy ID number.

Solicitors may also attempt to lure someone to a recovery or sober home. Be wary of homes claiming insurance will pay rent or other costs of staying at these homes because they provide no medical treatment and do not receive payment from insurance. Also ask if the sober or recovery home is registered or certified by a state agency or designee. In Florida, this is the Florida Association of Recovery Residences, which certifies sober homes meet 38 standards for recovery, housing, administration, training, finance and good-neighbor practices.

Keep a close eye on medical bills and insurance payments and question any that seem out of line. Altman said private insurance payments for tests will vary, but Medicare typically pays about $80 for screening tests to detect the presence of drugs, and between $117 and $254 for a more sensitive confirmation test to determine the amount of specific drugs present.

Governor Wolf signed a bill in December giving DDAP authority over recovery homes located in Pennsylvania that receive public funding. The department has until June 2020 to promulgate regulations for recovery homes, but many already exist and operate in Pennsylvania and may work with a county’s SCA. Smith encouraged consumers considering a recovery home for themselves or a loved one to contact their SCA before making a financial commitment.

“Getting timely help can be key to saving a loved one’s life, but families need to be sure they are dealing with a reputable facility,” Altman said.  “The bottom line is, if someone is being paid to recruit you or a loved one to an out-of-state facility, they may not have your best interests in mind.”

Pennsylvanians looking for treatment for themselves or a loved one can call the PA Get Help Now helpline toll-free, 24/7 at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Information on questions to ask if consumers are solicited for an out-of-state recovery home or addiction treatment center are at www.insurance.pa.gov, on the Health page. A list of licensed treatment facilities in Pennsylvania is also available at www.ddap.pa.gov. Suspected insurance fraud can be reported to the National Insurance Crime Bureau at 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422).