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Wolf seeks new approach to helping ‘vulnerable populations’

July 31, 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday he will revamp how the state provides help to people who need to be protected and cared for by state agencies.

The Democratic governor signed an order setting up a 25-member group that has three months to propose changes that will improve services to what’s he’s calling “vulnerable populations.”

Wolf also set up the Office of Advocacy and Reform and will hire a child advocate for the new agency under his office.

He directed agencies to try to reduce the number of people living in institutional settings, to improve how referrals are made for inspector general investigations and to mine state data to identify problems more quickly.

Wolf said the need for change was highlighted by some high-profile cases, including harm to children and older people.

Among them was a Philadelphia Inquirer investigation that said students at Glen Mills School in Delaware County had been subjected to violent attacks from staffers, including broken bones and threats to place them in worse places. The state announced it was revoking the juvenile detention facility’s licenses in April.

Another incident prompting the changes was the death of 14-year-old Grace Packer, who was raped, tortured and murdered.

Packer had extensive contact with the child welfare system before she was killed in a sweltering attic outside Philadelphia.

Wolf also cited cases of abuse against nursing home residents, people struggling to get mental health treatment and those with substance abuse problems who he said have been taken advantage of while seeking treatment.

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