Gov. Wolf outlines effort to bolster mental health services | News, Sports, Jobs
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A broad effort to improve mental health services and change public perceptions of mental illness was announced Thursday by Pennsylvania’ governor.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is rolling out an initiative that includes more resources and a public outreach campaign similar to an approach the state has deployed in response to the opioid crisis.
“For those struggling with their mental health, we have one message: your mental health matters and it’s OK to reach out for help,” Wolf said in a statement released ahead of a news conference on the topic later Thursday.
He said that “reaching out for help — or to help — can make a huge difference for someone struggling.”
The campaign, “Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters,” includes developing new health insurance coverage state regulations, coordinating services for physical and behavioral health, analyzing pay and other factors for those who provide mental health services and finding ways to get more social workers into schools.
“Counties provide important community-based mental health services such as such as residential programs, family-based support, outpatient care and crisis intervention – all of which are critical to the well-being of our constituents and our communities,” said Jeff Snyder, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) president and Clinton County commissioner. “Counties support the attention being given to the mental health needs of our citizens through the Governor’s ‘Reach Out PA’ initiative, but funding levels for county mental health services also have direct impacts on whether these important community and family supports will be available. For too many years, we have seen state funding for mental health services lag far behind needs even as caseloads continue to increase.”
Lisa Schaefer, executive director of CCAP, noted, “Increasing mental health base funds for expanded services, beds and diversions is the top priority for Pennsylvania counties in 2020. At the same time, the commonwealth must continue to support the successful Behavioral HealthChoices program, which for the past 20 years has allowed each county the flexibility to deliver mental health and drug and alcohol services to Pennsylvanians enrolled in Medicaid. Close collaboration between the commonwealth and its county partners is critical to fully support Pennsylvania’s mental health system and the needs of our citizens who are impacted by mental illness.”
Wolf will host a public discussion about mental illness Friday at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, part of an attempt to reduce the stigma that can be a barrier to mental health treatment.
Other aspects of the program include training more state workers in suicide prevention, assessing Department of Military and Veterans Affairs resources regarding post-traumatic stress disorder and self-harm, and widening Aging Department information and training about dementia.
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