Luzerne County Children and Youth head comments on protest

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]
Van Saun Van Saun -

WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County Children and Youth Executive Director Joanne Van Saun issued a statement calling for more dialogue in response to a protest in front of the agency’s offices on Pennsylvania Avenue Monday.

The nonprofit Crowd Pow Wow Proud, which provides support for medical marijuana participants and others, sponsored the rally to oppose the agency’s intervention.

For example, Kingston resident and Crowd Pow Wow client Shanelle Dates said she was recently contacted by Children and Youth as she left a local hospital following her daughter’s birth, even though her doctors had approved her use of medical marijuana due to several gastrointestinal conditions and other medical issues.

Dates’ experiences were the subject of a story in Sunday’s Times Leader.

While unable to speak about specific cases, county Chief Solicitor Romilda Crocamo has said a state law amendment now requires health providers to report newborns experiencing prenatal drug exposure withdrawal symptoms, even if the mother, while pregnant, was under the care of a prescribing medical professional and complying with that professional’s prescription directions.

The amendment also removed a section requiring prompt and automatic Children and Youth assessments of hospital notifications and instead called for safe care plans formulated by a “multidisciplinary team” prior to the child’s hospital discharge.

However, Crocamo has said the county must still perform immediate assessments of hospital reports because it has not received state directives authorizing a new approach. A safe care plan has not yet been developed for the county.

In her statement Monday, Van Saun said state and local governments still have “issues of legality” to address with legal medical marijuana because its introduction in Pennsylvania is “in its early stages.”

Van Saun reiterated confidentiality laws prohibit her from commenting on any specific child or family but said the law requires Children and Youth to ensure the safety of all children and conduct comprehensive family assessments when reports are made to the agency.

“Consistent with the 66 other county Children and Youth agencies in Pennsylvania, the agency awaits additional guidance from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Office of Children and Youth and Families regarding medical marijuana,” she wrote.

In reference to the protest, Van Saun said her agency respects the right to free speech and “encourages all people to express their opinions in a reasonable manner as was seen today.”

“More conversations are needed at all levels of government in order to clarify this issue as this newly enacted law evolves in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Van Saun said.

Van Saun Saun

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.