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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Pushing To Change Visitation Policies At Long-Term Care Facilities

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The coronavirus pandemic has impacted long-term care facilities across the state. Now some lawmakers are pushing to make changes with visitation.

They say many people living in these facilities are suffering from isolation and something needs to be done. Barbara Erbe's mother is 90 years old and suffers from dementia. She's lived at Longwood at Oakmont for many years.

"She's gotten thin. And mentally, she has declined," said Erbe. "My mom is a social person. She loves the interaction."

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, Erbe hasn't had an in-person visit with her mom, with the exception of some outdoor visits and Zoom calls. This is a problem many family members are dealing with.

"I was aware of what they were doing in Minnesota and Indiana, but it was a constituent who came forward with a particular circumstance," said Pam Iovino.

State Senator Pam Iovino sent a letter to Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine at the end of July. It asks Levine to consider the state allowing for essential family caregivers.

"Would they consider expanding this type of visit to a specific named family caregiver so they could come in and provide care to a loved one?" said Iovino.

State Secretary Bob Mensch, from the eastern side of the state, is currently writing up legislation to make this happen.

"The legislation itself would permit facilities that want to. It's a may, not a must," said Mensch. "It would take down the barrier that exists between the loved ones."

"That's what my mother wants. She just wants to see her family," said Erbe.

Dr. Levine responded to Senator Iovino on Wednesday in a letter, saying the state Department of Health is in the process of evaluating the policy, along with other options. The goal is to reissue guidance by the end of August.

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