Legislative Bulletin

See All Issues from April 2018 forward​​​​​​​.

 

 
Number 5
February 28, 2020

LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN

An e-newsletter of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

 

 

 


 

717-526-1010

COUNTY PRIORITY SPOTLIGHT: MENTAL HEALTH COMMUNITY BASE FUNDING     

Counties 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.

Community-based 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.

Mental 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 individual residents.

Counties 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.

Stagnant 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 

On Feb. 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.

In both 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.

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BUDGET HEARINGS CONTINUE WITH HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT  

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 on HB 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 the commonwealth.

VOTING MATTERS

CCAP 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.