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behavioral health

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) has launched a web page detailing the Behavioral Health Commission for Adult Mental Health. Among other information, the page includes a list of the 24 commissioners, dates for upcoming commission meetings (which are open to the public for both in-person and remote participation), and an email address for those interested in attending the meetings.

The commission will next meet at 1:00 pm, September 1, in Dauphin County at a location to be determined.

Act 54 of 2022 established the Behavioral Health Commission for Adult Mental Health as an interdisciplinary body comprised of leadership from state agencies, communities around Pennsylvania, and the behavioral health field as well as individuals with lived experience with behavioral health.

The legislature appropriated $100 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding for adult mental health programs. Per Act 54 of 2022, no funding shall be expended until enabling legislation is enacted by the General Assembly. The Commission shall produce a report with funding recommendations.

Visit the BH Commission for Adult Mental Health website.

Find ways to best support individuals who have serious mental illness (SMI) and are involved with the criminal justice process.There is a trend toward collaboration among behavioral health clinicians and the criminal justice system. Yet studies show that individuals who have SMI interact with the criminal justice system at higher rates than the general public. In fact, about two in five people who are incarcerated have a history of SMI.

This guide for mental health clinicians helps you better understand the criminal justice system process as it relates to individuals who have SMI. Learn what happens after an individual in your care is arrested or incarcerated. Gather insight on how you can best support and advocate for them.

DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE NOW!

If you have any questions, please contact RCPA Policy Director Jim Sharp.

Counties Face Uncertainty on State Funding for Mental Health Services
By Robert Swift
Capitolwire Staff Reporter

HARRISBURG (Aug. 2) — County officials face some uncertainty in running their basic mental health programs upon learning they get flat funding under the new state budget.

Getting a level amount of state aid means counties will have difficulty reducing waiting lists for services which are widespread, hiring to address staff shortages, and expanding services to meet various mental health needs, said Lisa Schaefer, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, on Tuesday.

“We are certainly disappointed,” she said. “There is certainly a lot of good increased funding could do.”

CCAP learned this week there is no increase in that line item as analysis continues with the Fiscal Year 2022/23 budget enacted early last month.

CCAP is part of a coalition that lobbied this year to end level state funding for basic county mental health services for the past 11 years. Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $36.6 million increase to restore much of a decade-old cut in state aid to county-run mental health programs, but that didn’t make the final budget enacted last month.

Instead the budget provides an additional $53 million for assorted mental health-related needs, including the county programs and state-run hospitals.

“Counties can continue to get grants for mental health programs from the Department of Human Services under the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (CMHSBG),” said DHS spokesman Brandon Cwalina.

“This funding supports counties in their planning and implementation of mobile crisis services, as well as crisis receiving and stabilization services, that meet national standards for crisis intervention services,” he said.

“It can also be used to support service expansion efforts that ensure a full continuum of community crisis intervention services for anyone regardless of insurer or ability to pay…” said Cwalina. “Counties have until 2025 to use the funds available through these CMHSBG grant allocations to continue the building of crisis mental health service infrastructures across the commonwealth.”

And the budget directs $100 million in unspent federal COVID relief funds for general mental health programs and an additional $100 million in COVID funds for school mental health grants.

The one-time funding comes after lawmakers of both parties said this year that more needs to be done to address mental health issues among Pennsylvanians.

Counties could get a share of that, but Schaefer said annual funding is needed to rebuild the counties network of mental health programs.

The $100 million for general mental health programs can’t be spent until a new special state commission meets and makes recommendations for to how to spend it the money and the Legislature passes enabling legislation.

Whether that happens during the remainder of Gov. Tom Wolf’s term or after a new governor takes office next January is uncertain.

The 24-member Behavioral Health Commission for Adult Mental Health is charged with considering funding for the following areas: telemedicine services, mental and behavioral payment parity, workforce development and retention, expansion of peer support services, crisis services, integration of behavioral support and substances abuse disorder treatment, cultural issues in providing behavioral health care, impact of health on behavioral health, intersection of behavioral health and the criminal justice system, and timely delivery of psychiatric care.

The commission composed of state officials and legislative appointees, is supposed to hold its first meeting by September and hold at least two meetings, one with rural care providers and law enforcement and one with urban or suburban providers and law enforcement.

Counties will have a representative on the commission who can advocate for funding, said Schaefer.

“The $100 million in ARPA funding and the grants available through the CMHSBG are a start, but further investment will be necessary to support growing behavioral health care needs,” said Cwalina. “The Wolf administration is encouraged by the General Assembly’s recognition of ongoing need through their establishment of the Behavioral Health Commission for Adult Mental Health, and we hope the recommendations adopted by the commission will be considered for future investments outside of ARPA funds.”


RCPA has been asked to be a part of the Behavioral Health Commission process and will continue its collective efforts with the Mental Health Safety Net Coalition to create sustainable pathways for all mental health funding platforms in Pennsylvania.

If you have any questions, please contact your RCPA Policy Director.

Concept of important day, reminder, organizing time and schedule - red pen marking day of the month on a calendar

In an effort to continue the work of the Coalition communications work group, a full committee meeting will be convened on August 4, 2022, from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm in order to discuss next steps. While the amount of increased county funds appears to be $15M, this is not confirmed. There also appears to be a one-time commitment of $100M, again, without detail. Finally, there is the requirement to develop a Behavioral Health Commission, which will explore BH needs across the commonwealth. The communications work group sees some opportunities to connect and educate this group of people.

The meeting on August 4 will:

  • Review the communications group efforts during the budget period;
  • Discuss strategies to educate the BH commission members;
  • Recruit more communications work group members; and
  • Set goals for the 2023/24 budget year.

Please contact Sarah Eyster with questions. Register for the meeting here.