State House Committee Passes Bill Allocating $100 Million for Mental Health Needs | WDIY Local News
A Lehigh Valley lawmaker’s bill to boost Pennsylvania’s mental health funding is going before the state House of Representatives for consideration.
Democratic State Rep. Mike Schlossberg of Lehigh County announced Tuesday that House Bill 849 was unanimously approved by the state House Human Services Committee.
The legislation, which Schlossberg authored, would allocate $100 million in federal funding toward addressing the state’s mental health needs.
According to a release, HB 849 takes recommendations from the Behavioral Health Commission on Adult Mental Health and expands the efforts to help address the needs of struggling youth.
The funding breakdown includes:
- $34 million for behavioral health workforce improvements.
- $25.5 million for criminal justice and public safety initiatives.
- $40 million to expand access to mental health services and supports.
- $500,000 to evaluate the overall impact of these initiatives.
The commission was established in 2022 during former Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration.
It was tasked with providing recommendations on how to appropriate $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding to address mental health.
The 24-person commission, made up of behavioral health experts, advocates, providers and legislators, released its report and recommendations in October 2022. However, lawmakers did not pass legislation to distribute the funding before the end of the year.
Schlossberg, a longtime advocate for mental health and member of the Behavioral Health Commission, said that around 1.7 million Pennsylvanians live in a community which doesn’t have enough mental health professionals.
He said five Pennsylvanians take their own life every day and stated that “the time for hearings and studies is over.”
“We know the problems. We have solutions. It is time to act, and act swiftly,” Schlossberg added.
“We cannot afford to sit on $100 million in federal funds available to address the commonwealth's critical and ongoing need to support behavioral health services.”
Schlossberg also said 98,000 children aged 12-17 were diagnosed with depression in the last year, and that 57% of them were unable to receive any care.
Previously in June 2022, Schlossberg proposed a $100 million budget proposal to address mental and behavioral health care called HOPE for PA, or “Healing, Opportunity, Promise, Excellence in Mental Health Care.”
This plan called for providing:
- $40 million for public safety and creating safe and healthy communities.
- $30 million to address provider and capacity shortages.
- $30 million to provide training, education, and outreach.
Schlossberg said at the time that HOPE for PA was a “collaborative proposal” created with input from mental health leaders, stakeholders, and staff, which also built on existing operations and proposals.
(Original air-date: 5/23/23)