By David DeKok
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - A transgender woman named by the governor to serve as Pennsylvania’s physician general was endorsed by a state legislative committee on Wednesday, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote on her nomination next week.
If she is confirmed, Dr. Rachel Levine, 57, formerly an adolescent medicine specialist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, would become the first transgender person to serve as a high-level state official in Pennsylvania history.
Jonathan Adams, a spokesman for Lambda Legal in New York, said he did not know of any transgender people in high-ranking state government positions throughout the United States.
During her hearing in front of the Senate's Public Heath and Welfare Committee, Levine was asked no questions about her transgender status.
As physician-general, she would advise Gov. Tom Wolf and the secretary of health on important public health issues, such as the growth of opioid and heroin abuse in Pennsylvania.
Sen. Judy Schwank, a Democrat from Berks County, asked whether Levine would consider providing Naloxone, a drug that can save heroin users from dying from an overdose, to high schools in the state.
She said last month that a student at a Reading area high school passed out at school after taking heroin and was rushed to a regional medical center.
“A heroin overdose at a high school is an extremely alarming event,” Levine said. “It’s very unusual.”
The antidote presently goes to the Pennsylvania State Police, ambulance operators and colleges, but not to high schools, she said. Local police departments are being contacted individually and urged to stock Naloxone.
Levine said she would “work on” giving the antidote to high schools.
Several senators had questions about medical marijuana. A bill to legalize medical marijuana is stalled in committee in the Legislature.
Levine said Wolf supports medical marijuana but is aware of its risks. She said cannibis was like strong painkillers: both had demonstrated medical uses but should not be used recreationally.
(Editing By Frank McGurty)