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LOUISE M. HESCHKE v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (10/29/79)

decided: October 29, 1979.

LOUISE M. HESCHKE, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of Louise M. Heschke, dated July 10, 1978.

COUNSEL

John R. Pellick, with him Howard L. Rubenfield, for petitioner.

Linda M. Gunn, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr. and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Crumlish

[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 40]

Louise M. Heschke's refusal to participate in an alcohol treatment program was grounds for the Department of Public Welfare's (DPW) denial of general and medical assistance, citing Pennsylvania Public Assistance Eligibility Manual § 165.23(d), 55 Pa. Code § 165.23(d):

(d) Persons exempt due to incapacity because of drug or alcohol addiction. The person who is unable to work or participate in

[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 41]

    work or training because of alcohol or drug abuse or dependency shall, as a condition of eligibility for himself only, accept available treatment and rehabilitation services.

Heschke argues that this provision violates her constitutional right to due process in that it is unduly vague, contending that the regulation lacks guidelines to assist DPW in making three essential determinations: (1) whether a particular individual suffers from an alcohol problem, (2) if an alcohol problem does exist, whether the person's need for assistance is based upon that problem; and (3) what constitutes an appropriate program for persons determined to be suffering from an alcohol problem.

We have reviewed the record. We cannot agree that Heschke has met the heavy burden upon one challenging constitutionality. The law presumes that a statute, or regulation enacted under the dictates of a statute, is constitutional and will be upheld unless it clearly, palpably and plainly violates the constitution. See Gilman v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 28 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 630, 369 A.2d 895 (1977). DPW regulations put upon the County Board of Assistance (CBA) the responsibility to refer any client about whom they have obtained "substantial evidence" of alcohol abuse or dependency which contributes to an inability to work to the appropriate county administrator.*fn1 The CBA had substantial evidence to determine that Heschke had an alcohol problem and that it created, at least in part, her need for assistance. The hearing examiner found that Heschke herself reported that prior to moving to Pennsylvania she had been a resident of an alcoholic detox unit in New York, which facility she had left without being formally discharged by a physician.

[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 42]

She had also been on the public welfare rolls in New York. On the basis of this information, the CBA referred her to the County Administrator for Alcohol Abuse who, after a 20-30 minute interview, recommended treatment in a residential rehabilitation program. Heschke's refusal to enter such a rehabilitation facility was based ...


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