COUNTY PRIORITY SPOTLIGHT: MENTAL HEALTH COMMUNITY BASE
have selected five legislative priorities for
2020, with the top priority to advocate for an increase in community mental
health funding, often referred to as community base funding. To
provide context for this critical request, it is important to understand what
this funding is and what it is used to accomplish at the county level.
mental health services-such as community residential programs, family-based
support, outpatient care and crisis intervention that are coordinated by
counties on behalf of the state-are critical to the well-being of our
constituents and our communities. Funding levels for county mental health
services have direct impacts on whether these important community and family
supports will be available.
health community base funding is not medical assistance; counties use mental
health base funds to assist individuals who are not eligible for Medicaid or
who have needs that could lead to serious mental health issues and are not
covered by insurance. Act 80 of 2012 created a Human Services Block Grant
that allows participating counties flexibility across several human services
line items, including mental health base funding, but this by itself does not
replace or resolve the need for additional funding. Therefore, additional
mental health base funding is needed to assist counties with prevention,
treatment and services that can mitigate more significant future needs by
have been making do with the same level of funding for almost a decade, even
though local need continues to increase. Despite developing innovative
programs, shifting priorities to meet the greatest need and investing local
dollars to supplement state funds, counties are seeing an increase in mental
health conditions, individuals who need assistance and services, and the
complexity of cases.
funding for counties has several negative impacts at the local level, many of
which have the opposite effect of the intent of this program and other state
and county priorities. Some of these impacts include longer wait times for
medication checks or evaluations, decreased access to services as providers
can no longer sustain their services, lack of consultation, education or
prevention to address the wider community, inability to collaborate and
address forensic concerns, and increased complexity of cases due to inability
to address mental health concerns at an early stage, which will likely only
worsen as funding for community mental health services continues to erode.
$90M BOND APPROVED FOR VOTING MACHINES
On Feb. 26, the Pennsylvania
Economic Development Financing Authority (PEDFA) unanimously approved a $90
million bond issue that will be used to reimburse counties for part of the
cost of purchasing new voting machines. It is expected the bonds will be sold
within the next few months.
The Department of State was
authorized to apply to PEDFA for the bond under Act
77 of 2019, which included other election reforms as well. The funds from
the bond will be used to reimburse counties for up to 60% of costs of
replacing old voting machines, including new ballot marking devices,
scanners, system software, one year of licensing fees and voting system storage
cases. Counties have submitted reimbursement requests for $136.5 million,
which would be eligible for approximately $82 million in reimbursement from
the bond. In addition, counties may also submit applications until July 1 for
reimbursement of eligible costs for additional machines, scanners or other
equipment that may have been needed after the initial purchase of their
machines. Any remaining bond proceeds may be used by the Department to fund
grants to purchase county election security equipment.
All 67 counties were required
to purchase and roll out new machines in time for the April 2020 primary,
with 45 of those deploying their new systems in 2019.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE BUDGET HEARINGS FOCUS ON ELECTIONS
19, the House Appropriations Committee held its FY 2020-2021 budget hearing
with the Department of State (DOS), while the Senate did the same the
following day. Much of the discussion in both hearings focused on Act
77 implementation and questions surrounding election security and voting.
chambers, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar and Deputy Secretary
for Elections and Commissions Jonathan Marks fielded questions related to
election security and ensuring that logistical changes brought on by Act 77
can be executed smoothly for the upcoming election. The discussions focused
on a variety of issues, notably election night results, timely reporting of
election returns, polling privacy and whether the state and counties are
prepared to face the upcoming primary election.
BUDGET HEARINGS CONTINUE WITH HUMAN SERVICES
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees continued
their budget hearings with the state agencies the week of Feb. 24, with the
Senate focusing on the Governor's FY 2020-2021 budget request for departments
with oversight of key human services programs.
Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller appeared before
the Senate and responded to questions on Medicaid block grants, Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the opioid crisis and mental health. On
the latter, Sec. Miller responded to Sen. Elder Vogel's (R-Beaver) question
on efforts to assist mental health issues within the agricultural community
by saying that the Department of Human Services (DHS) is working closely with
counties and noting the Governor's Reach Out PA initiative to break the
stigma on mental health issues. The committee also engaged in a discussion
regarding reimbursement for Medicaid recipients within the Medical Assistance
Transportation Program (MATP), with Miller noting that counties work to
establish protocols to verify direct reimbursements to individuals.
Another topic receiving attention during the hearing
was long-term care. The issue of whether the state would take steps to stop
closures of personal care facilities and nursing homes was raised by Sen.
Argall (R-Schuylkill); however, Miller noted that the that Governor did not
include an increase for nursing homes in this budget.
Both the House and Senate will conclude budget hearings
the week of March 2, including the House Appropriations hearing with the
Department of Human Services. Both chambers return to session on March 16.
Additional details about the Governor's budget proposal, including a
line-item analysis of impacts to counties, can be found on CCAP's Budget News webpage.
HOUSE COMMITTEE DISCUSSES BREACH OF PERSONAL INFORMATION
On Feb. 25, the House Commerce Committee held a hearing
1010, legislation introduced by Rep. Jared Solomon (D-Philadelphia) which
would amend the state's Breach of Personal Information Notification Act.
CCAP submitted written testimony to the committee,
sharing concerns with definitions in the bill, stressing the importance of allowing
appropriate time for local governments to investigate and mitigate breaches,
and to identify individuals who may be affected for notification. In
addition, CCAP noted that counties exercise significant diligence to protect
personal information, highlighting partnerships across the state, federal and
local levels to share cybersecurity best practices and trainings.
The complete testimony can be found on the CCAP Legislative
Action Center under Legislative Testimony.
WOLF ADMINISTRATION AWARDS SAMHSA GRANTS
In early February, the Wolf administration announced
more than $1.2 million in grants to nine county jails, including Armstrong,
Bucks, Cambria, Franklin, Lawrence, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northumberland and
Washington. These funds support the county jail-based Medication-Assisted
Treatment (MAT) Program to increase opioid use disorder services to
incarcerated individuals in Pennsylvania, and are part of a larger $55.9
million federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration
(SAMSHA) grant to aid in state responses to the opioid epidemic. The joint
initiative of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency,
Department of Corrections, and Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs allows
for an increased state and local partnership to address the opioid crisis in
members will elect the two CCAP representatives to the NACo Board of
Directors at the business meeting to be held during Tuesday's closing session
of the CCAP Spring
Conference. The Conference takes place March 22-24 at the Hilton
Harrisburg, and features meetings of standing policy committees, which any
CCAP member may attend and observe, and numerous educational sessions.