The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

May 3, 2014

McClelland pushes problem solving

— It is called root cause problem solving.

The approach is simple: find out what factor in a sequence is leading to an undesirable result and then correct it.

Erin McClelland has used the straightforward ap-proach that she learned from former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, during years of treating addicts and serving as an executive director in the health care field.

Now, McClelland, a lifelong resident of the Alle-Kiski Valley, located northeast of Pittsburgh, hopes to do some root cause problem solving in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I am really tired of politicians getting

elected so they can point out a problem and say ‘here is who you blame for it,’ ” said McClelland, a candidate in this year’s 12th Congressional District’s Democratic Party primary.

“Nobody holds them accountable for having solutions anymore. That’s it; you have a problem and say, ‘well, this is who you should be mad at’ or ‘here’s who did it first.’ I’m sorry, but if you look at most of our problems, they’re decades and decades in the making, administration after administration in the making. To sit there and put it on one person, or one administration, or one political party is ridiculous.

“We’ve lost leadership in Washington. We have people coming in and they don’t have to have solutions anymore. They can simply campaign in 140 characters or less with talking points and no real comprehension of what these problems are or how to solve them at their root cause.”

She developed the first licensed orthomolecular addiction treatment program in Pennsylvania, Arche Wellness.

Given her background, McClelland has made health care and drugs two of her main issues.

On a local level, she feels medical care providers, law enforcement officers, educators and others need to come together to develop an organized plan for dealing with drug-related problems in society.

“It’s done for very altruistic reasons, but it’s not done in a way that is clear, concise and comprehensive, so you can get maximum benefits with very limited resources, and you have to do some very scientific problem solving,” said McClelland, who feels the federal government has largely ignored the drug issue.

In terms of health care, McClelland thinks the main need is to eliminate medical errors, which she estimates could save hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Asked how she would have addressed problems with the nation’s health care system, McClelland said, “I would have gone into the (Department of Veterans Affairs) system where the government has complete control, created an error-resolution process, which is actually being done in a number of hospitals throughout the country already, created that template and said here’s how you do it, here’s how you implement it, and you hand it to every hospital in the country and say you will start resolving medical errors, you will have a transparent error-identification system put in place.

“Right now, hospitals cover up errors because they’re encouraged to do so. They’re encouraged to not identify and not solve them. They’re encouraged to pretend it didn’t happen, hide it and then it will happen again because you haven’t solved it.”

McClelland recently received an endorsement from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

“I have four generations of unions in my family,” she said.

“I’ve been bleeding that for a long time. It’s something that’s very important to me. These are organizations that built the middle class. Today, they stand as stewards and they tend to support very aggressive candidates that support the middle class and middle-class family values.”

McClelland is running against retired Marine Corps Col. John Hugya for the Democratic nomination. The winner of the May 20 primary will face U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, in the general election.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

About the series

This is the second in a four-part, weekly series looking at the race in the 12th Congressional District.

April 27: Col. John Hugya

Today: Erin McClelland

May 11: U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus

May 18: A final look at the candidates

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