Jul. 12, 2021 / Newspaper Columns

By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne)

Several new laws are now on the books in Pennsylvania after their recent enactment. One of the laws will help stop child abuse by simply improving communications among agencies charged with investigating the crime.

Act 42 of 2021, formerly House Bill 954, allows law enforcement agencies to share information relevant to an allegation or instance of abuse with entities required by the Child Protective Services Law to investigate such abuse. Previously, law enforcement agencies had been blocked by the Criminal History Record Information Act from sharing investigative or criminal record history information with county children and youth agencies that are responsible for investigating child abuse.

This has put some children in abuse cases at risk for greater harm, as well as forcing other abuse victims to be repeatedly interviewed by various authorities about their traumatic experiences. Improved communication will substantially improve the Commonwealth’s ability to live up to our responsibility to protect our children.

Legislation to protect senior citizens and other care-dependent people has also been signed into law. Act 49 of 2021, formerly House Bill 1431, makes it a crime for care providers to take, post or share demeaning and humiliating images and videos of any care-dependent person, such as a senior citizen in a care facility. Under the new law, this type of abuse would be graded as a third-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500.

In addition, two new laws to help protect people battling drug addiction are now in place.
Act 35 of 2021, formerly House Bill 741, would require recovery house staff to notify an emergency contact designated by a resident if the resident leaves the house. Similarly, Act 41 of 2021, formerly House Bill 944, calls on inpatient treatment facilities to notify an emergency contact designated by a patient if that person leaves the facility.

Both laws require notification to be made as soon as possible, and not to exceed 12 hours. The goal is to ensure people know their loved ones may be at risk and can try to help them before it’s too late.

Representative Tarah Toohil
116th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office
RepToohil.com / Facebook.com/RepToohil