It should not be controversial to think that every Pennsylvanian deserves affordable, accessible, comprehensive healthcare. We live in a time and a region coping with an unprecedented opioid crisis and a legacy of pollution harming our water and air. Yet too many politicians in Harrisburg seem to feel that the only way to save healthcare is to limit access and national politics have caused premiums to rise for certain plans. In the state legislature, elected officials can do their part to make sure Pennsylvanians have viable options by enacting common sense laws that keep costs down and plans open. People should not have to pay more for less coverage. Period. I know that we can  — and must — do better.

I’m sure we all agree that the health care system can be dramatically improved. I am issuing a call for a non-partisan and lobbyist-free review of the problems Pennsylvanians face in attaining health care, with no potential solution off the table. I also demand that the review have as a goal that all members of the Commonwealth have equal, affordable, fair access to quality health coverage, no matter their individual economic circumstances.

A region that’s the frontline for the opioid crisis needs political support, not rising costs and limited options. We need solutions on a supply and demand level, to invest in and strengthen drug use prevention and treatment programs to break the cycles of addiction that make this crisis such a challenge to address. We must be open to innovations in this field, pay close attention to successful protocols from other regions and work together as a community. In the legislature, I will work with law enforcement, local government, schools, families, and healthcare professionals to develop a comprehensive approach to end the addiction scourge in Pennsylvania.

Regionally, we must grapple with the ongoing health impacts of a long legacy of pollution. While Western Pennsylvania has curbed pollution levels over time, outdated and ineffective infrastructure continually contributes to environmental health issues. With our children’s health on the line, we cannot move fast enough. To protect the next generation and improve our own wellbeing, we must update our infrastructure and be vigilant about our environmental standards. The cost of inaction is in our medical bills and in the economic costs of illness and the grief of our families as loved ones are affected. This needs to change.

I wish it didn’t need to be said, but in matters of women’s health it is disheartening to see policy dictated by the overwhelming majority of men in our legislature. The Pennsylvania legislature, in fact, has the second lowest percentage of women in office of any state in the country and it is simply not right for a group made up of so few women to be making policy that affects women’s bodies. I believe that personal medical decisions should be made in consultation between a woman and her healthcare provider, that the government has no business interfering and restricting medical services; a woman’s body is not under the the purview of the legislature. I will fight to ensure that all women, regardless of economic status, can have their particular healthcare and contraceptive needs respected and addressed.

I hope to help create a future in which very few women will experience unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. I hope to help establish a network of easily accessible and affordable services to support a pregnant woman and enable her to have a child, whether she chooses to raise it or to see it become part of someone else’s loving family. If we lived in a society where all women, regardless of economic status, knew they could have a child, yet have realistic, affordable childcare options, realistic education and employment options, and strong healthcare support, the idea of an unplanned pregnancy would not be nearly so daunting. However, I respect the sincere religious perspectives of all my prospective constituents and believe that the only way to balance those differences is by maintaining individual choice.

The legislature also does not adequately address mental health issues, such as the alarming rise in depression and anxiety in teenagers, and post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans. Not only in Pennsylvania, but across the U.S., we must swiftly work to change a culture that keeps mental illness in the shadows and silences those who suffer. I will continue to be vocal on the urgency of removing the stigma associated with mental illness. Ending this shame is the best first step towards getting help to those who suffer directly, as well as to the family, friends and communities that are also greatly impacted.