Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Interview Highlights Importance of Services for Pregnant Women
  • 2023 Accomplishments: Supporting PA Seniors
  • Improving Pennsylvanians’ Experiences by Increasing Broadband Access
  • PA VETConnect Helps Veterans Access Programs and Services
  • Grants Available to Support Student Safety, Behavioral Health Needs
  • Preventing Cancer by Increasing Access to Screenings
  • Out and About in the 30th

Interview Highlights Importance of Services for Pregnant Women

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Amid the ongoing conversation occurring in Pennsylvania and the United States surrounding health services for pregnant women, I spoke with Pastor Jay Gilbert and his wife, Tiffany Gilbert, founders of Voices for the Unborn Pregnancy Center, to discuss their organization’s mission, work and impact.

It was a pleasure to sit down with the Gilberts and talk about the inspiring work that Voices for the Unborn is doing. Their unwavering passion for mothers, babies and families shone through in the numerous ways they assist and support so many pregnant women in need.

Voices for the Unborn started in spring 2021 as an expansion to the Gilberts’ ministry, Another Level Ministries, located in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, out of a desire to defend and promote life through education and empowerment. In addition, they also broadcast on Cornerstone Television Network, a Christian television network focusing on the greater Pittsburgh region.  

Through partnerships with multiple Pittsburgh organizations, Voices for the Unborn assists in the care and development from a wholistic perspective of those seeking their services. The services are confidential, free of charge, and include pregnancy testing, medical referrals, counseling, material assistance, post-abortion support, parental education and training classes, adoption referrals, fatherhood mentoring, and an economic self-reliance program for parents and grandparents. The organization’s work with mothers and families helps to promote positive multigenerational community change.

Every day, pregnancy support centers across Pennsylvania are joining with Voices for the Unborn in its mission to bring help and hope to so many vulnerable women and babies. As chair of the Senate Maternal and Infant Health Caucus, I was able to tour several centers across the state and was blown away by the lifesaving support they provided to so many people. Vulnerable women across the commonwealth need and depend on the tremendous work that these pregnancy centers do, and we as policy makers need to support them.

Voices for the Unborn is one of many pregnancy support centers located across Pennsylvania. These centers provide support such as material assistance, parenting and life skills education, counseling, and referral services free of charge to pregnant women and women with children, who often are low-income earners or in urban areas. Some provide additional services such as residency halls, opportunities for higher education and job placement. 

There are more than 120 pregnancy support centers in Pennsylvania that serve more than 60,000 clients per year. In 2019 alone, centers gave out more than 91,000 baby items, including more than 1,250 free packs of diapers, more than 45,000 free new and used baby clothes outfits, more than 550 free new car seats and more than 700 free new and used strollers. In addition, more than 6,500 clients participated in parenting education classes.

2023 Accomplishments: Supporting PA Seniors

As part of Senate Republicans’ commitment to healthy and safe communities, we are focused on supporting Pennsylvania seniors. This means making sure they have access to the health care they need and preventing their exploitation.

One new law adjusts Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes so the facilities can continue to meet the needs of vulnerable patients. I introduced legislation that ensures seniors do not lose access to Pennsylvania’s prescription drug programs due to an increase in their Social Security payments.

A third piece of legislation recently signed into law aims to prevent elder abuse by strengthening guardianship laws. It protects vulnerable adults within the guardianship system from fraud, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Improving Pennsylvanians’ Experiences by Increasing Broadband Access

Federal grants are available to improve the experiences Pennsylvanians have at medical care facilities, schools and libraries. The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority’s Capital Projects Fund allows for investment in high-quality broadband infrastructure as well as other connectivity infrastructure, devices and equipment.

The $45 million of competitive grants can be used for community projects to construct, acquire or improve facilities that will enable work, education and health monitoring.

Grants will be awarded in amounts ranging from $250,000 to $2 million. Apply online through April 20. While the grant funding was awarded through a federal program, it supports Senate Republicans’ priority of infrastructure advancement.

PA VETConnect Helps Veterans Access Programs and Services

Because of legislation supported by Senate Republicans, PA VETConnect makes it easier for Pennsylvania’s 700,000 veterans to access the programs and services available to help them.

Administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, PA VETConnect benefits service members, veterans and their families. The database of resources enables local veteran advocates to point veterans to information, resources, programs and services in their area and across the Commonwealth.

Resource areas include benefits, employment, financial assistance, post-traumatic stress, mental wellness and substance use.

Grants Available to Support Student Safety, Behavioral Health Needs

Grants are available through a few different state programs to support the physical security and behavioral health needs of students in the Commonwealth. All grant applications must be received by Feb. 29.

School Mental Health Grants make $90 million available for school districts, intermediate units, area career and technical schools, charter schools, regional charter schools and cyber charter schools.

Approximately $32 million is available through Competitive School Safety Grants for school resource officers, security-related technology and violence prevention programs that address safety and security. As part of Senate Republican efforts to ensure safe schools and communities, a budget measure passed in December included provisions to consolidate and streamline school safety and security programs and operations under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The School District Meritorious Grant Program is specifically for school districts and approximately $18.6 million is available. Individual awards to address physical safety and security range from $30,000 to $45,000.

Preventing Cancer by Increasing Access to Screenings

The federal government estimated that nearly two million Americans would be diagnosed with cancer and that more than 600,000 would die from their disease in 2023. Research shows that more than 40% of those cases can be attributed to preventable causes such as smoking, physical inactivity, excessive exposure to the sun and excess body weight.

Making healthier choices can dramatically reduce your risk of cancer, according to the American Association for Cancer Research. Learn how you can put yourself on a better path and test your cancer prevention knowledge here.

Senate Republicans passed legislation that is now law to help Pennsylvanians get the preventative cancer testing they need. Specifically, it eliminates out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing of hereditary cancer syndromes and supplemental breast screenings for women at high risk of developing breast cancer.

Out and About in the 30th

Altoona Area School District launched the Star Reader Program at Penn Lincoln Elementary School. The program is being sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Altoona. To kick off the program, local community member, Bethany Marshall, presented her book Bubs with Nubs to the students, which they truly enjoyed. Not only was the book authored by a local community member, but it was also illustrated by Altoona native Sarah Vogel. Happy to be a part of such an important program for young people.

Freedom Township Volunteer Fire Company’s hosted their annual recognition banquet. Department officers presented their 2023 Fireperson of the year awards to Freedom Township Police Chief Nathan Claycomb and Officer Tyler Grigg. Deputy Fire Chief Tim James received the Firefighter of the Year award. Doug Grace was presented with the Lifetime Firefighter award for his 50 years of service with the department, and I was honored to sponsor a Senate citation for Doug. This is an amazing group of heroes! Thankful for their service to our community!


It was a pleasure to tour the beautiful library building on the campus of Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, along with Senator Wayne Langerholc, Representative Jim Rigby, Representative Jesse Topper, and Cambria County Commissioner Tom Chernisky. It was nice to meet with President John McKeeghan and his staff to hear about the great opportunities available to students and discuss important higher education policy issues.

Congratulations on the Grand Opening and ribbon cutting of Big Valley Prints & Company.  They are a gift shop but also specialize in laser engraving, custom apparel and embroidery.  They are located at 4469 E. Main Street, Belleville, PA.

All of my offices participated in National Wear Red Day to raise awareness for heart health.


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