Pa. bills providing $100M in aid for mental health programs are a lifeline. Here’s why | Opinion

The money will revolutionize Pa.’s mental health landscape and improve the lives of so many people

Direct service providers rally for more money in the 2022-23 state budget at the Pennsylvania state Capitol on May 24, 2022 in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).

Direct service providers rally for more money in the 2022-23 state budget at the Pennsylvania state Capitol on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

By Marco Giordano 

In an era marked by social, economic, and technological advancements, our state’s legislation must keep pace with the evolving needs of our communities.

Pennsylvania House Bill 849, sponsored by Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, and Senate Bill 605, sponsored by Sen. Maria Collett, D-Montgomery, represent a vital step forward in supporting the crucial work of human services providers, so we, in turn, can help the most vulnerable people in our community.

This legislation would allocate $100 million to programs that support adult mental health. On the surface, that may seem banal, but this funding will revolutionize the landscape of behavioral health care and improve the lives of countless individuals and families across our great state for years to come. 

As a human services provider, I wholeheartedly endorse these bills for the following reasons.

Enhancing Accessibility

The proposed legislation addresses a fundamental challenge Pennsylvanians face: accessibility to services. Through county-provider partnerships these bills will provide crucial support for suicide prevention and the crisis continuum of care through investments in mobile crisis teams, walk-in clinics, and crisis stabilization units.

By streamlining access to essential services, Pennsylvania House Bill 849, and Senate Bill 605, will offer a lifeline to those in need. They embrace the core principle that everyone deserves the opportunity to lead a fulfilling life and contribute to society regardless of their background. This move not only ensures a robust safety net for vulnerable populations but also recognizes the immense value of preventive care. 

Promoting Collaboration and Integration

Another notable aspect of these bills is their emphasis on collaboration and integration across different human services and healthcare sectors. Under this legislation, there is a much needed opportunity to address silos that impede effective coordination enabling providers to work together seamlessly.

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This approach holds great promise for promoting holistic care, as individuals rarely face isolated challenges. By integrating services such as mental health, substance abuse treatment, housing support, and physical health, we can comprehensively address individuals’ multifaceted needs.

Furthermore, the bills foster partnerships between human services providers and educational institutions, encouraging sharing of knowledge and expertise. This collaboration will enhance the quality of care and provide valuable training opportunities for aspiring professionals, ensuring a pipeline of skilled and compassionate individuals dedicated to serving our communities.

Supporting the Workforce

The success of any human services system hinges on the dedication and expertise of its workforce. Today, human services providers across the state experience an average 24% vacancy rate and a 40% turnover rate. This makes it nearly impossible to provide enough quality services to people.

This legislation acknowledges this reality by prioritizing qualified professionals’ recruitment, retention, and development. These bills allocate resources for competitive compensation, ongoing training, and career advancement opportunities. Investing in the workforce creates an environment that attracts talented individuals and fosters a culture of excellence and innovation.

As a human services provider, I am thrilled to support Pennsylvania House Bill 849 and Senate Bill 605 as a first step to stabilize behavioral Health support across the state.

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These bills champion the principles of accessibility, innovation, collaboration, integration, and workforce support; this is the path we need to take. By endorsing this legislation, we affirm our commitment to the well-being of all Pennsylvanians, particularly the most vulnerable. 

Let us seize this opportunity to create a future where human services are universally accessible, comprehensive, and responsive to the needs of our diverse communities. Together, we can build a stronger and more compassionate Pennsylvania for generations.

It is time that our legislators pass these bills. 

Marco Giordano is the chief executive officer of Resource for Human Development, a national human services nonprofit with the broadest possible service mission, and specializes in creating innovative, quality services that support people of all abilities wherever the need exists. 

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Capital-Star Guest Contributor
Capital-Star Guest Contributor

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation on how politics and public policy affects the day-to-day lives of people across the commonwealth.