U.S. Sen. Bob Casey receives Rural Health Legislator of the Year Award

February 14, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Sen. Bob Casey recently received the Rural Health Legislator of the Year Award, presented by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH). This award recognizes an outstanding legislator from Pennsylvania for their work and support of rural health initiatives that address an identified need in their district or across the state. 

The PORH was established in 1991 as a partnership between the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Penn State to enhance the health status of rural Pennsylvanians and strengthen the delivery and quality of care in the communities in which they live.

At Penn State, PORH is administratively located in the Department of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development and is located in the Penn State College of Nursing. Each year, the organization presents awards to recognize rural health programs and individuals who have made substantial contributions to rural health in Pennsylvania. 

The award was presented at a meeting on Feb. 7 in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Casey was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2006 and began serving his second consecutive term in 2012. Prior to his Senate position, he served as the Pennsylvania auditor general and the Pennsylvania state treasurer. Casey is a member of the Special Committee on Aging, Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, the Finance Committee, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and the Joint Economic Committee. He is also a ranking member of three subcommittees including the subcommittee on Nutrition, Specialty Crops and Agriculture Research, on Taxation and IRS Oversight, and on Children and Families.

Lock Haven University faculty Beth McMahon and Laura Crawford recognized Casey for his tireless efforts on behalf of and support for rural health initiatives. He has introduced and supported pieces of legislation that address identified rural health needs, demonstrated leadership in rural communities, and incorporated community input into the planning process.

Casey is a strong advocate for public health, state and local law enforcement, and opioid recovery. Recent bills he has voted for include the Comprehensive Addiction and Recover Act, the Protecting Our Infants Act, the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction TreatmentAct, the Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act and the John Thomas Decker Act. Currently, the opioid epidemic claims the lives of 10 Pennsylvanians each day, an increase of 30 percent from last year. Rural counties are among the hardest hit by this epidemic. In 2015, 22 counties in Pennsylvania had drug overdose rates above the state average, and 14 of those counties were rural.  

In addressing opioid abuse, Casey encouraged the HELP Committee to start a work group on prescription drug abuse in 2014. This work group has operated successfully for several months at the staff level to examine the issue and consider steps for improvement. Members of the HELP Committee sent letters reporting their findings and recommendations to key stakeholders, thereby raising awareness of opioid abuse and to combat the epidemic. Many of the bills he has supported provided funding to increase access to treatment and recovery services for substance abusers. The John Thomas Decker Act in particular, introduced by Casey on May 26, 2016, provides student athletes and members of their support system with information about the risks of opioid addiction, how to identify an addiction, and alternatives for pain management.

Casey has demonstrated leadership in the rural community by supporting early childhood education, allocating funding to continue research of the Zika virus and prioritizing basic needs of the population. In February 2016, Casey was the primary author of a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, urging the agency to take immediate steps to correct star ratings for Medicare Advantage plans that enroll vulnerable beneficiaries, many of whom reside in rural areas. He also advocates for patients over the age of 65 by calling for fair pay for individuals training or serving in home-care and ensuring that all Medicare beneficiaries have quality options for affordable care.

The nomination noted that Casey has proven to be an outstanding legislator who has demonstrated an unrelenting commitment to improving the lives of all those in the Commonwealth. His specific focus on the underserved and rural communities throughout Pennsylvania positions him as a worthy recipient of this award.

To learn more about the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, visit porh.psu.edu.

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Last Updated February 16, 2018