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Pennsylvania governor issues order better protecting LGBTQ kids from debunked conversion therapy

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“The order won’t end conversion therapy in Pennsylvania, but it is designed to cut into it and assure that state funds are not used to pay for the practice,” LGBTQ outlet The Advocate reported. The order tells agencies to ensure no commonwealth funds are “used for the purposes of providing, authorizing, endorsing, reimbursing for, or referring for conversion therapy, to the extent permitted by law.” Agencies are directed ”to take steps to actively promote evidence-based best practices for LGBTQIA+ individuals that is actually supported by the scientific and medical communities.”

Rafael Alvarez Febo, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, said that the order has been in the works for the past year. “With this action, the practice of conversion therapy has its days numbered in Pennsylvania​,” Alvarez Febo said.

Local outlet WHTM reports that while there is no law banning so-called conversion therapy in the commonwealth, a dozen cities and two counties there have banned the debunked practice. “A statewide ban has been proposed several times, but it has yet to pass through the legislature,” which is controlled by Republicans. Should a full ban be passed into law, Pennsylvania would join at least 20 states and Washington, D.C., in protecting this vulnerable community.

“Conversion therapy is causing horrific consequences for the mental health and well-being of a generation of young LGBTQIA+ individuals,” Wolf continued. “But there is something very simple that we can all do to help. We can stand up and tell LGBTQIA+ youth that we hear them and we accept them exactly as they are.” Wolf’s office points to findings from The Trevor Project showing that LGBTQ youth were forced to undergo this debunked practice “were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide in the past year.”

The debunked practice also wastes immense sums of money in addition to the incalculable human harms, with direct costs of the debunked practice itself estimated at about $650 million annually. “However, the study finds that the harms associated with the practice, such as substance abuse and negative mental health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts, are significantly higher—an estimated $8.58 billion annually; bringing the total estimated cost of conversion therapy to $9.23 billion annually,” Trevor Project and Cytel researchers said in March.

“I want LGBTQIA+ youth and individuals across Pennsylvania to know that I stand with you,” Wolf continued. “I see you, I respect you and I support you. My administration will continue to support policies to keep children safe from bullying and harmful practices.”

”“Young people should never be punished for being who they are and that’s what socalled conversion therapy does, while causing sometimes irreparable trauma to individuals,” Alvarez Febo said. Troy Stevenson, senior campaign manager for advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, urged “state legislature to pass comprehensive state-wide protections and for governors across the nation to follow the Keystone State’s lead in ending this abusive practice.”

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