Date Posted:Thursday, May 21, 2020

Editorial: Growing Mental Health Concerns Deserve Sustainable Investment

Details:

Jeff Snyder
County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania President
Clinton County Commissioner


At the start of 2020, Pennsylvania counties announced that their top legislative priority for the year would be increased state funding for the mental health community base, a result of the growing mental health needs across all 67 counties. No one could have imagined at that time just how much more critical those community-based mental health services would become in just a few months.

The suffering of those in need has been multiplied as their previously normal routines have been uprooted by the coronavirus pandemic, shifting how they function and heightening stress. What we have faced in the last several months, and certainly will continue to face in the months to come, is pandemic-induced trauma.

These challenges are experienced differently by each person within their own personal circumstances and can result in increased need for support for medical needs and counseling to non-medical, but still life-sustaining needs, such as assistance for food, shelter and clothing.

Although it’s difficult to look beyond the current challenges, planning for the future must continue while keeping in mind how our current reality continues to shape that future.

Even before the pandemic, counties’ abilities to meet service needs had been compromised by stagnant funding over a decade, at the same time that mandates, service needs and demands continued to increase.

Community-based mental health services—such as community residential programs, family-based support, outpatient care and crisis intervention—are critical to the well-being of our constituents and communities.
Now, more than ever, a sustainable investment is needed in mental health community base funding so that counties can continue to provide services to strengthen and secure the social services safety net that was already stretched to capacity before seeing increased demand as individuals cope with the traumatic effects of our current situation.

As we emerge from our stay-at-home order and the initial grip of COVID-19, it is clear that these services will be critical to reintegrating individuals and communities back into their new routines.

While we understand that the state will be considering its own budget implications from unexpected revenue shortfalls, we must remember that the state and counties are partners in effectively maintaining healthy, safe and resilient communities. State funding levels for county mental health services have direct impacts on whether these important community and family supports will be available, including expanded mental health services, beds and diversions.

At this juncture, we recognize that everyone has been hard hit by the ongoing financial impacts of the pandemic. Counties strongly urge the General Assembly and the Wolf Administration to show their support of Pennsylvania’s residents by investing in the mental health community base that will continue to provide critical supports to individuals dealing with the effects of the coronavirus trauma in the coming year and reinforce mental health service provision for years to come.

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 The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) is the voice of county government; a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. CCAP members include county commissioners, council members, county executives, administrators, chief clerks and solicitors.

County governments are responsible for a wide variety of critical services, including provision of human services (i.e., mental health, intellectual disabilities, juvenile justice, children and youth, long-term care, drug and alcohol services, housing) to people in need in our communities. In addition, counties are responsible for emergency management and 911 services, administration of the courts and corrections system, elections, maintenance of county bridges, and the county property assessment rolls, and are also involved in environmental and land use planning, protection of open space and community and economic development.

CCAP strengthens the counties’ abilities to govern their own affairs and improve the well-being and quality of life for every Pennsylvania resident. It advocates for favorable state and federal legislation, programs and policies on behalf of counties. CCAP is committed to service excellence through education, information, insurance, technology and other programs that support effective county government. Founded in 1886, CCAP is an affiliate of the National Association of Counties.
For more information about Pennsylvania counties and CCAP, log on to www.pacounties.org and visit CCAP’s Twitter page @PACountiesGR.​