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MH/MR Coalition Lauds Representative Bunt, Amendment Increases Funds For The Recruitment And Retention Of Direct Care Workers
April 30, 2001

The shortage and turnover of direct care workers in mental health and mental retardation community programs threatens the quality of services for over a quarter of a million Pennsylvanians with mental illness and mental retardation. In response to an outpouring of support from members of the General Assembly, the statewide Mental Health/Mental Retardation Coalition (MH/MR Coalition) and thousands of Pennsylvanians, Representative Ray Bunt (R-Montgomery) offered an amendment to the state budget that was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 199-0 on April 24. The amendment allocates an additional $50 million state dollars to begin to address the recruitment and retention crisis for community-based mental health and mental retardation direct care workers.

Two studies conducted by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee in 1988 and 1999 document the chronic underfunding in the state budget for existing community mental health and mental retardation services. This chronic underfunding has created the present situation where counties and providers of community services have insufficient funding to maintain present programs, including the inability to adequately recruit and retain direct care workers.

The MH/MR Coalition, a stakeholder group comprised of provider, county, and advocacy organizations, has worked throughout this year with members of the General Assembly, the Governor's Office and the Department of Public Welfare on addressing the direct care worker recruitment and retention crisis that places the continuity and quality of care for Pennsylvania citizens with mental illness and mental retardation at great risk. The Governor has begun to recognize this issue and included an additional $17.5 million state appropriation in his budget proposal to address community-based mental health and mental retardation direct care worker recruitment and retention.

The MH/MR Coalition issued this statement on April 24: "Although we appreciate the Governor's recognition of this very serious issue, we will continue to work with members of the General Assembly, like Representative Bunt, to support an additional $50 million of state dollars to supplement the funding proposed by the Governor so the problem can begin to be addressed adequately. We thank Representative Bunt for sponsoring this amendment and we look to our many supporters in the General Assembly for their continued advocacy as budget deliberations progress for this fiscal year."

The members of the MH/MR Coalition are the following: MH/MR Program Administrators Association of PA (an affiliate of the County Commissioners Association of PA); the Mental Health Association in PA; PA Association of Rehabilitation Facilities; PA Association of Resources for People with Mental Retardation; PA Community Providers Association; The Arc of PA; and United Cerebral Palsy of PA.

For more information on Coalition activities, members can contact Lu Conser or George Kimes at PCPA.

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