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News Date: Wednesday, January 25, 2023

ounty leaders across Pennsylvania unveiled six key county government legislative priorities, led by a call to fund and reauthorize the 911 system in the state.

“Unless you need it, you probably don’t think much about the 911 system and how it operates. But if you or your loved ones have an emergency, you want to be able to pick up your phone and reach someone who can quickly provide you with the service you need,” said CCAP President and Venango County Commissioner Albert “Chip” Abramovic. "As part of the renewal process, counties support a review of the funding streams to make sure counties have adequate, consistent and sustainable funding to maintain their responsibility as the first line of emergency response, both now and in the years to come."

The 2023 priorities were selected by CCAP members as the issues with the greatest significance and the most potential for positive impact to counties in the coming year.

“Achieving these priorities will improve county government, but more importantly, they will improve our communities and the lives of those we serve,” Abramovic said.

Click here to see the entire press conference

In addition to 911 funding and reauthorization, counties have also prioritized:
  • County Inmates with Mental Health Issues
  • County Mental Health Base Funding Increase
  • Addressing the Needs of Children and Youth Who Have Complex Behavioral Health Issues
  • Broadband Access and Development
  • Promoting Election Integrity

On County Inmates with Mental Health Issues
Achieving this priority would mean individuals with mental health issues would have access to services and diversion programs to keep them out of jail. Further, those who end up in the correction system could have services to help rehabilitate them and reduce further costly interactions with the criminal justice system.

“When unmet behavioral health challenges lead to criminal charges, individuals are often committed to jails that are not equipped to address the needs of people who need mental health treatment.,” said Dauphin County commissioner and Chair of the CCAP Human Services Committee George Hartwick. “Counties intend to work closely with the new legislature and the new administration to find better alternatives to placing inmates in jail who have mental health issues, such as better diversion and re-entry options.”

On Mental Health Base Funding Increase
Counties support increasing annual investments in the state’s mental health community base funding to help counties maintain and rebuild the existing safety net of services, before adding any additional programs and services.

“We are all too aware that mental health issues are a critical challenge in our communities, and the need for services continues to increase at the same time the cost for those services is also increasing,” Hartwick said. “We cannot stand here today and say strongly enough how desperately important it is to increase the state’s investments in the mental health community base funding to help counties maintain and rebuild the safety net of services.”

On Addressing the Needs of Children and Youth Who Have Complex Behavioral Health Issues
As part of this priority, counties will continue working closely with the Department of Human Services to develop a partnership role to help support children with complex behavioral health issues, and plan to educate the General Assembly while also developing contracting standards for “no eject, no reject” policies.

“Counties have extreme challenges in obtaining a safe place for these children to stay where they can receive the right services, and in recent years, these struggles have continued to grow because we cannot find providers willing or able to accept a child who requires more intensive treatment or creates a safety threat to themselves and others,” said Hartwick. “We seek to develop solutions, so these children have access to the services they need regardless of the complexity or severity of their need.”

On Broadband Access and Development
Counties want every Pennsylvanian to have the ability to access the internet adequately, safely and affordably, regardless of income, geography or individual circumstance.

“We have come a long way in addressing the digital divide in recent years, but we also have a long way to go to make sure all of Pennsylvania has access to information and opportunities,” said Mifflin County Commissioner and Chair of the CCAP Community and Economic Development Committee Rob Postal. “With maps now publicly available from the FCC that will drive the allocation of those federal resources in 2023, counties continue to have a significant interest in addressing inadequate or nonexistent broadband service that leaves thousands of Pennsylvanians behind.”

On 911 Election Integrity
Reforms to Pennsylvania’s Election Code are needed to resolve ambiguities and help counties continue to promote the integrity of our elections. Expanding pre-canvassing and extending the mail-in ballot application deadlines remain the most important changes counties are seeking to improve election administration.

“This work, and any work, to update our state’s voting laws must be done in close coordination with counties from the earliest possible moment. Working together, we can be sure the law achieves the intended policy goals and is also efficient and understandable to those of us who are charged with implementing it,” Snyder County Commissioner and Chair of the CCAP Elections Reform Committee Joe Kantz, said.