PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Across Pennsylvania, and across the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on mental health.
“I’ve even heard people describe it as a second pandemic of sorts,” said Lisa Schaefer, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.
Governor Wolf is proposing a $36.6 million increase in county mental health funding over the next fiscal year.
The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania is calling on lawmakers to get it done.
“We continue to put local dollars into it to make sure people are getting the services they need but it really requires a state-local partnership to make sure those safety nets are there,” explained Schaefer.
Schaefer says across the Commonwealth, counties are seeing the effects of a “crumbling” mental health system firsthand.
“We see it in our courtrooms, we see it in our jails but beyond that in our community, we see the impacts in our schools, you see the impacts in our healthcare system, in law enforcement,” she said.
Industry leaders say since taking a ten percent cut in funding back in 2012, issues have only compounded.
“How many businesses can continue to operate from 2006 to 2020 with no increase but take a ten percent cut?” asked Garrett Trout, chief executive officer of TrueNorth Wellness Services.
The pandemic has providers like TrueNorth dealing with increased demand for services along with worker shortages.
Trout says he’s down about 80 employees across his entire company.
“To have that stress daily takes its toll sometimes and again people sometimes leave the field then never return back to us,” he said.
While Trout is excited about the governor’s proposal, he says that boost in funding needs to be sustained.
“When you look at it over the past 16 years that still amounts to a $50 million decrease in what our funding was,” he explained.
And if it’s not, Trout believes bigger problems are to come.
“You’re going to see more incarcerations, more injuries, more families struggling, more people not working, all the things that go along with it,” he said.
Lawmakers have until June 30th to finalize the 2022-2023 budget.
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