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MH/MR Coalition Rallied at Capitol
June 10, 2003

June 3 was another rainy day in Pennsylvania, but rain didn’t keep people away from the Capitol Rotunda. Approximately 350 people rallied in support of the MH/MR Coalition’s Budget Request for restoration of vital funding and additional money for mental health (MH) and mental retardatioin (MR) Recruitment and Retention. To paraphrase Representative David Levdansky; we have talked about the two “r’s” of Recruitment and Retention. Now we have to talk about a third “r” - Restoration!

A copy of the press release used by the MH/MR Coalition follows. Please feel free to use the entire release, or parts of it, for local media efforts.

LEGISLATORS, FAMILIES SPEAK OUT FOR
ESSENTIAL FUNDING FOR ESSENTIAL SERVICES
FOR PEOPLE WITH MENTAL RETARDATION AND
FOR PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

HARRISBURG (June 3) – Hundreds of families, individuals with mental retardation, individuals with mental illness, their direct support professionals, providers, counties, and other advocates - joined by Pennsylvania House and Senate members filled the main Capitol Rotunda today demonstrating their support for increased funding for community mental health and mental retardation services – particularly funding to address the ongoing crisis of recruiting and retaining qualified direct support professionals.

In addition to calling for increased funding for community MH/MR services, attendees also urged the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Rendell to restore the human services funding that had been cut in the state budget adopted in March for Fiscal Year 2003-04. This funding is essential to maintain the human services infrastructure that is 1) so vital to thousands of Pennsylvania’s citizens, 2) an economic investment in local communities, and 3) a source of workforce development.

Members of the MH/MR Coalition issued the following statement earlier today: “As part of our Working Together Campaign we want to continue working with the Governor and the General Assembly to accomplish appropriate solutions – including increased funding – to insure quality services for the over 250,000 Pennsylvania consumers with mental retardation and mental illness and to support our workforce of tens of thousands of employees. We recognize the difficult economic times that Pennsylvania is facing. As we strive together to energize our economy, remember that funding for these programs is reinvested over and over again in local communities through wages, taxes and purchases of supplies and services in the private sector. The MH/MR Coalition – for the first time in its history – publicly supports revenue enhancements including tax increases – whatever is necessary to restore human services funding and to adequately increase the capacity of community MH/MR services. We also encourage the Governor and the General Assembly to utilize a significant portion of the $900 million in new federal funding coming to Pennsylvania to address these issues.”

The call for more funding – both to restore human services funding and provide a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for community mental health and mental retardation services – has numbers of legislative supporters, including five legislators who spoke their clear support at this afternoon’s press conference, including Representative Ray Bunt (R-Montgomery), Senator Jake Corman (R-Centre), Senator Allen Kukovich (D-Westmoreland), Representative David Levdansky (D-Allegheny), and Representative Tom Petrone (D-Allegheny).

These legislators agree with consumers that their ability to live and thrive in the community is seriously at risk because of the direct support professional recruitment and retention crisis. According to a 2002 national survey conducted by Bob Seidman, LLP, these community-based programs face a severe workforce shortage because of wages that have increased only $0.82 over the last ten years – representing a mere nine-percent increase in over a decade. Increases for comparable workers in the public sector and for fast food workers have been three to four times higher.

Direct support professionals are essential to quality community services. They provide a wide-range of services on a day-to-day basis: habilitation, health needs, personal care and hygiene, employment, transportation, recreation, housekeeping and other home management-related supports and services. Representative Levdansky, recognizing the importance of these professionals stated, “More state and federal funding is absolutely essential to provide family sustaining wages for our dedicated direct care workforce.”

Representative Bunt understands not only the impact that community MH/MR services have on individuals with mental retardation and individuals with mental illness, but also on the economic development of Pennsylvania. “Every dollar that is invested into mental health and mental retardation services is used again and again. Much of the state funds we commit to these services draws down additional federal funding – the combined effect of which helps finance thousands of jobs, the purchase of supplies and related services, and generates income and sales tax revenues as a result. Additional funding is essential - resources are needed from wherever we can find them,” said Representative Bunt.

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); PA Association of Rehabilitation Facilities; PA Association of Resources for People with Mental Retardation; PA Community Providers Association; The Arc of PA; United Cerebral Palsy of PA; and the Mental Health Association in PA.

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