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Gubernatorial Candidates Weigh-in on Issue of Mental Health and Mental Retardation Workers
March 25, 2002

HARRISBURG - The issues surrounding mental health and mental retardation workers are getting the attention of Pennsylvania's gubernatorial candidates.

Today, hundreds of supporters gathered in the Capitol Rotunda, joining Pennsylvania's Mental Health (MH)/Mental Retardation (MR) Coalition. The MH/MR Coalition asserts that a 2% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for MH/MR community services is necessary in Governor Mark Schweiker's 2002-03 proposed budget.

"There is no question that the mental health and mental retardation community is an essential component to the well-being of our Commonwealth," said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Rendell. "It is therefore important to support the professionals that work day-in and day-out to provide the necessary services to mental health and mental retardation patients. As Governor, I will work with the mental health and mental retardation community to ensure the continuation of quality mental health services to Pennsylvanians."

The MH/MR Coalition formed several years ago, as it launched its Working Together Campaign to bring awareness to the growing crisis in recruiting and retaining quality direct support professionals in the field. The Coalition has been successful in getting approximately $17 million in state funds and $33 million in federal funding for recruitment and retention initiatives, as well as securing large bi-partisan support in the House and Senate.

"As Governor, I will work to implement a comprehensive health and human services policy to address Pennsylvania's direct care workforce crisis," said Bob Casey, Jr., Democratic candidate for governor.

Many advocates acknowledge that the direct care/support workforce is indeed in crisis. The shortage and turnover of direct care/support professionals in mental health and mental retardation community programs threatens the quality and continuity of services to over 250,000 Pennsylvanians.

"Access to quality health care -- including mental health services -- is a basic right for every Pennsylvanian," said Mike Fisher, Republican gubernatorial candidate. "As Governor, one of my top priorities will be to...ensure that providers, especially MH/MR providers, are paid fairly. I will work to increase the pay for MH/MR providers."

The MH/MR Coalition is comprised of the following organizations: MH/MR Program Administrators Association of PA (an affiliate of the County Commissioners Association of PA); PA Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (PARF); PA Association of Resources for People with Mental Retardation (PAR); PA Community Providers Association (PCPA); The ARC of PA; and United Cerebral Palsy of PA (UCP).

Contact for this press release:
Melissa DiSanto Simmons
Director of Legislative Affairs
PA Community Providers Association (PCPA)

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