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MISS: Is Pennsylvania playing whack-a-mole when it comes to fighting substance abuse? There’s reason to wonder after Jennifer Smith, the commonwealth’s secretary for the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, told a state Senate committee Monday that cocaine and methamphetamine use is up in the Pittsburgh, Johnstown and Philadelphia areas, and that could be a harbinger for the rest of the state. This is occurring as deaths from heroin and prescription drugs are leveling off. Apparently, there’s a similar trend in Midwestern states. We hope that the treatment programs and law enforcement work that has been so effective in lowering the number of opioid deaths and addicts can be applied to those ensnared by cocaine and methamphetamine.

HIT: In 2012, during the tenure of Gov. Tom Corbett, no nursing home in Pennsylvania received a fine for violations uncovered during inspections. We can assume that not every nursing home in the vastness of the commonwealth was hitting on all cylinders that year, but that the Corbett administration was lax in enforcing regulations. That has changed during Gov. Tom Wolf’s tenure, and last year the state health department collected $2.3 million in fines from nursing homes, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. That’s 10 times as much as it collected in 2015. Health Secretary Rachel Levine told the P-G that the fines can serve as a motivation for nursing homes to provide better care. “We want our civil penalties to be meaningful but not punitive,” she said. “It’s one thing that can induce change.” Levine and her lieutenants should keep the pressure on to ensure that older Pennsylvanians are receiving the best possible care in our nursing homes.

MISS: We all have a right to freedom of speech under the Constitution, but at the same time, we can’t, for instance, yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. We also can’t use our speech to threaten violence toward schools or people who work there. A couple of area residents found that out the hard way, and both were sentenced in recent days. Amanda Jarosh of Cecil Township pleaded guilty to terroristic threats and disorderly conduct for allegedly making threats of violence aimed at Hills-Hendersonville Elementary School, where at least one of her children is a student. She had been in jail since last November and now faces 2 to 23 months on parole. In the other case, George J. Shallenberger of Union Township was sentenced to 2 to 23 months in the county jail for threatening on social media to shoot striking Ringgold School District teachers in November 2017. Both defendants indicated they weren’t serious about their threats of violence, but let these cases be a lesson that our choices of the words we use have consequences, and sometimes those consequences are pretty stiff.

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