The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

June 20, 2013

State in brief 6/21/2013

Police: Man who died had suffered neglect

SCRANTON – Family members charged with murder and neglect in the death of a 32-year-old Pennsylvania man with Down syndrome worried about losing his government assistance if he was placed in a personal care facility, authorities said.

Robert Gensiak weighed just 69 pounds and his body was covered with open sores and scabies when he died at a hospital in March.

“In the 26 years that I’ve been in the office ... this is the worst case of neglect that I’ve seen,” Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola said at a news conference Wednesday in Scranton. “This family – the mother and two sisters – basically let the man rot to death.”

No other agencies were involved in his care, Jarbola said Thursday.

County officials and an area advocacy group said the family never reached out for help to care for Robert Gensiak.

“Nobody had this guy on the radar screen, other than the family,” Jarbola said in a phone interview. “It became really clear to us that the family didn’t do anything to provide any type of ... additional care.”

Susan Gensiak, 59, of Taylor in northeastern Pennsylvania, and her daughters, Joan, 35, and Rebekah, 24, were charged Wednesday with third-degree murder, involuntary man­slaughter and neglect of care for a dependent person.

All three were sent to Lacka­wanna Prison, with bail set at $350,000 for Susan Gensiak and $250,000 for her daughters.

House OKs 3 bills addressing child abuse

HARRISBURG – Three bills to change how child abuse investigations are handled were closer to becoming law Thursday following favorable votes in the state House of Representatives.

The House voted overwhelmingly to send the Senate the proposals, which are among the legislation under consideration since the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal raised concerns about the adequacy of state laws to protect children.

One bill would establish procedures to report child abuse online or by email and require those who must report suspected abuse to inform their supervisors and call the ChildLine hotline. It passed 184-6 after one member said he was concerned about how it might affect families that discipline their children with corporal punishment.

The second bill would require determinations of child abuse to be approved by county child protective services administrators and the agency’s lawyer.

The third would broaden how school personnel must handle abuse cases. Both measures passed unanimously.

Senate expects vote on Medicaid expansion

HARRISBURG – Legislation to expand Medicaid eligibility in the state under the 2010 federal health care law will come up for a floor vote in the state Senate next week with conditions that will make it more amenable to the chamber’s Republican majority, the chamber’s top senator said Thursday.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said a Medicaid expansion will help the state’s hospitals stay afloat.

He drew a distinction between the Medicaid expansion and the rest of President Barack Obama’s health care law, often referred to as Obamacare, big portions of which go into effect next year.

“Health care is changing next year no matter what, and I know that some view the Medicaid expansion as an embrace of Obamacare, but clearly it’s a rational decision that needs to be made,” Scarnati said.


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