During this week’s budget presentation by Governor Shapiro, funding for mental health services was addressed as a priority for vulnerable Pennsylvanians. RCPA is working to review the preliminary funding recommendations listed below, and we hope to have greater line-item insight from DHS Secretary Arkoosh’s address this Friday.
Please note that registration is now open for the DHS 2024/25 Budget Briefing. You can register to view the briefing here. Additionally, the DHS House and Senate Budget Hearings will be March 5 and 6, 2024, respectively, and RCPA has been asked to provide questions for the testimony. The DHS budget book is available here.
Lastly, as part of our RCPA Mental Health Steering Committees and Work Groups, we will review recommendations as we develop our strategic budget advocacy campaign over the next several months in our meetings with stakeholders and legislators.
We offer the following as the initial review of yesterday’s budget presentation:
2024/25 Budget: Mental Health Program Recommendations:
This budget recommends the following changes: (Dollar Amounts in Thousands) for Mental Health Services
School-Based Mental Health
This year, the Shapiro Administration looks once more to address the needs of student mental health with a $100 million investment. This new set of funds comes on the heels of $90 million recently allocated to schools, with monies originally set aside for adult mental health services targeted through the now defunct 2022 Behavioral Health Commission.
The funding mechanism for the distribution of these funds has yet to be determined if it is approved by the General Assembly. The last two rounds of school-based mental health funding have been allocated to individual districts through noncompetitive grants. The concerns have been that the funds, if not earmarked for the development of service delivery pathways, will go to building staff infrastructure in the form of social workers. While there are advantages to having these professionals in the buildings, they alone cannot address the student needs for assessment and treatment services
RCPA supports the funding being designated through the schools but will work with legislators to encourage developing a coordinated system of care coupled with a longer-term financial strategy with the schools, community-based providers, Student Assistant Programs (SAP), and county involvement in SAP coordination.
Early Intervention Services
As part of our initial budget discussions with OCDEL, we were concerned that there would not be an interim rate increase for 2024/25 as we work through the new Early Intervention rate methodology. We see in the budget that there is an increase of $16 million, nearly 9% over last year’s number. It is also projected that more children and families will be served in this coming year, and we will work with the administration to, at a minimum, continue to fund the ARPA-supported 3% increase from over the last three years.
County Child Welfare
It is projected that the County Child Welfare budget will essentially be flat, with less than a 1% increase. As the child welfare systems await the DHS Blueprint recommendations on addressing the extensive number of services for youth with complex care, especially those in congregate care, it was surprising there was not a designated funding allocation to support this initiative. This remains a priority to fund these programs.
County-Based Mental Health Funding
It was disappointing that the Shapiro Administration failed to deliver on last year’s “down payment” of the 2022/23 allocation of $20 million towards the county base. Up until last year, the county-based mental health system has gone more than a decade without a base rate increase. Last year’s $20 million represented only a 3% increase over the 2022/23 base funding. This year’s $20 million will equate to less.
We will continue, as part of our advocacy strategy, to support an allocation that is projected to be in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion to create a sustainable platform for county-based mental health service delivery.
The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) has announced the successful migration of data from the old registry site to the new Infant/Toddler Early Intervention Provider Registry website. All users can now log in to the new site and access all of their information. Users will still be able to log into the old site for any Early Childhood Education related activities but will now use the new site for all Early Intervention related tasks.
Please update your bookmarks with the new link. If you encounter any issues or have questions, please utilize the “Contact Us” button on the site or email directly. For all other Early Intervention related questions, please contact RCPA Policy Director Jim Sharp.
The Infant/Toddler Provider Registry will be moving to a new website on January 29, 2024. This is a reminder that Monday, January 22 begins a blackout period from January 22–28 for the Infant Toddler Provider Registry website. Any information entered after Sunday, January 21 will not be migrated to the new site. The new website will be shared with users via email on January 29, 2024.
If you or one of your staff were unable to attend the live webinar, a presentation has been posted. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the Provider Registry resource links. Also, as a reminder, the update webinar has been posted to the EITA website and can be found at the bottom of the page.
If you have any questions, please contact RCPA Policy Director Jim Sharp.
The Early Intervention Providers Association is hosting the “Early Intervention Advocacy Agenda Webinar” on Monday, January 30, 2024, from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm. The webinar aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the federal and state systems related to early intervention. It will explore the intersection of policy and early intervention, highlighting how policies impact daily activities and the relationship between fieldwork and overarching programs. Participants will learn how to align their daily work with the PA Part C Advocacy Agenda and gain insight into the impact of state requirements on their field activities. The discussion will emphasize the connection between work and policy for the greater good of Part C Early Intervention Services. Attendees will also receive a certificate for 1.5 hours of Infant/Toddler training. Register for the webinar here.