PA counties join national conversation about mental health system crisis

News Date: Thursday, March 2, 2023

“Counties are facing a critical breaking point."
Ahead of Governor Shapiro’s budget address, counties across the Commonwealth are urging meaningful and swift action to address the crumbling mental health system, as they struggle to keep up with an increased demand despite 13 years without an increase in state base funding. 

Furthermore, Pennsylvania counties continue to support flexibility in the use of base dollars, allowing nimble decision-making that best fits the needs of each county and its unique circumstances. It is only because of the flexibility of the county mental health base funding that counties have been able to sustain services at the level they have and serve people in the most effective way possible. 

However, counties have done all that they can do despite the lack of consistent financial support for those services, and are calling on the Shapiro administration and the General Assembly to support the increases to the state’s mental health base funding that are necessary to continue delivering the much-needed mental health services on which millions of Pennsylvanians rely.

“Counties are facing a critical breaking point. It cannot be overstated how much we need Governor Shapiro and the legislature to commit to long-term, sustainable funding for our mental health services,” said CCAP President and Venango County Commissioner Albert “Chip” Abramovic. “Without it, residents will suffer as it becomes harder and takes longer to find the support they need.”

In addition to direct services, counties have identified other areas where increased funding could help to support the mental health system, such as:

•    Children’s mental health 
•    Older adult mental health
•    Crisis intervention
•    Capacity issues
•    Peer support 
•    Programs that focus on the wraparound needs of clients, particularly housing and other community supports like job searches

From a county perspective, this has become a national crisis. In the past month, the National Association of Counties (NACo) launched the Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing to bring together county leaders from across the nation to take action and showcase the critical role that counties play in providing high-quality, accessible mental health services. 

“This isn’t just a state crisis, it’s a national crisis. But Pennsylvania can be a leader in addressing these issues head-on and help those that are in desperate need of services,” said Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick, who also serves as chair of the CCAP Human Services Committee and on the NACo Board of Directors. “This affects everyone, from children and youth that have complex behavioral cases to county jail inmates who could receive more appropriate treatment in a different setting.”