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Annual Report to the Membership

Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015

Board of Directors

Officers:

Mark Davis, Founding President

Regional Representatives

At-Large Representatives

Election Results for 2015-2014

PMHCA Staff

Introduction

Our team of staff, Board members and Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association (PMHCA) members continue to effect positive change for people in recovery and in the delivery of recovery oriented mental health services.

We are an organization governed, managed, and staffed by people who identify as being on mental health recovery journeys. And together with our members, we are the only statewide group that represents the voices of people in recovery. We very much appreciate the support given to our mission by members.

Report on current year

Three years ago our state OMHSAS funding was cut by 70 percent and none has been restored. On the up side, we now see a renewed interest by state government in obtaining stakeholder input. We have hope that there will also be renewed funding for advocacy groups under Governor Wolf’s administration. The governor has proposed restoration to human services funding, including community mental health which makes up 70 percent of it, over a three year period. This is the human services block grant that combined community mental health funding with other human services money and was cut by ten percent in the same year that PMHCA funding was cut. The block grant includes counties’ CHIPP funding which gave county mental health offices the ability to provide services both to keep people released from state hospitals in their communities and to prevent others from needing hospitalization.

In order to assure that the restoration funding is provided for community mental health in 2015-2016, the governor’s proposed budget must be passed in total with its proposed revenue increases. We encourage members to contact their state senators and representatives to request their support of the entire budget so that people with mental health needs will be better served in their communities.

Collaboration with other organizations is the best way to proceed when organizational resources are tight. For the third year, we have submitted our request for state funds with the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania (MHAPA). We cooperate in planning our activities and the budget to support them. This spring we began renting space to MHAPA in the building owned by PMHCA, helping both of us financially. Samantha, administrative assistant, assists with some MHAPA tasks and we share some office equipment with MHAPA. We expect that sharing such resources will benefit both organizations.

MHAPA, PMHCA and Mental Health Association of Westmoreland County were successful for the past two years with our collaborative application to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services for health insurance navigator funding. With that opportunity, we have been able to reach out to our networks and inform people that health insurers now are required to provide insurance that covers both physical and behavioral health. (Here we are using the term behavioral health to cover mental health and substance use problems, as is done in the grant.) Our Navigator Consortium includes these three organizations and the Advocacy Alliance in Scranton. We have ten certified Navigators who reach out to communities to educate organizations and individuals about the Affordable Care Act and how to apply for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, www.healthcare.gov .

We have helped roughly 900 to 1,000 people each year to enroll in the Marketplace or Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program through the PA Department of Health). Many people are able to finish enrollment on their own but others prefer assistance. We are pleased to be part of enrolling 473,000 people in Pennsylvania who have obtained insurance through the Marketplace. We attend many events such as health and community fairs, community support program meetings and recovery events to share information about the ACA, insurance and Medicaid expansion. We have talked to many individuals who come to our offices to apply for health insurance and, when they see that we work with mental health advocacy, tell us about their personal experience with mental health needs and recovery. One woman comes to mind who told the navigator that she has bipolar disorder and had not been able to obtain insurance due to this pre-existing condition. Under the ACA, pre-existing conditions do not disqualify people from getting insurance, as they did prior to enactment of that law and she was able to purchase an insurance policy with tax credits to help her with the cost of monthly premiums.

Navigators enroll people at sites in their communities, as well as in our offices. We travel to their communities and meet at places like Career Links offices, libraries and even coffee shops. All computers are encrypted for security and navigators can link to Wi-Fi wherever they go.

It has been rewarding to meet people from various countries and continents in the navigator work. Some have been citizens for years and some came to this country as refugees or immigrants. We use a telephone interpretation service for people who need help understanding English. It can be difficult understanding insurance terms when one has always spoken English and it becomes even more difficult when English is not one’s first language. We can also access the interpretation line for other PMHCA work.

Positive relationships have been developed with the PA Department of Labor and Industry due to the navigator grant. They approached our consortium to participate in their Rapid Response Teams when we first were awarded the grant because they knew our organizations worked with people with mental health needs. These teams are called to many businesses when employers plan lay-offs to explain unemployment and the availability of various social services needed by people who are losing jobs. We attend as the part of the team that explains health insurance options. This gives is the opportunity to help people determine their eligibility for Marketplace or Medicaid/HealthChoices insurance and then assist them with decisions about whether or not to accept COBRA coverage through the employer if it is an option, and enrollment and selection of a quality health plan, if they request our assistance.

Through the navigator work, we have also expanded connections with the criminal justice system at the Department of Corrections level and in some county settings. They want to assure that people are healthy when they are released into the community and can obtain services. The navigators can assist with this. The DOC is also working with OMHSAS on other ways in which people can get services and it has been a topic for PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the State Health Integration Program. We expect to see some progress made over the next few years for people with behavioral health needs.

The Medicaid expansion introduced by Governor Wolf’s administration is something that PMHCA and partners advocated for since the Affordable Care Act passed. We are very pleased that thousands more individuals and families now can get insurance coverage for physical and mental health needs. To give a sense of the people this can help: prior to expansion, a person with an income of $11,500 or less could apply for Medicaid; now individuals with incomes of about $16,200 or less can apply. This opens the door to insurance for people who applied previously and were turned down or who never thought about Medicaid as an affordable insurance option. PMHCA and our consortium partners help people enroll in Medicaid/HealthChoices. Please spread the word that 1-855-274-5626 is the number to call for assistance with Medicaid and Marketplace enrollment.

Pat Madigan has been conducting Caucuses at the Community Support Plan regional meetings to obtain input for PMHCA on issues that people around the state feel are important to recovery and the mental health system. Results will be compiled and shared after all four have been conducted and the information compiled. Thank you to everyone who has participated.

There are some ongoing state and federal issues that need to be addressed. With our small staff, we welcome opportunities to participate in advocacy coalitions to address them. We continue to be part of a statewide coalition advocating against Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy’s bill titled “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” and with the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery. The bill was recently reintroduced in this Congressional session so you will be hearing more about it in the near future. We understand that it still is a bill that creates pressure on states to enact “assisted outpatient treatment” or court ordered, forced, treatment for people experiencing mental health crises or trying to avoid them. It is not recovery oriented. PMHCA has long opposed such bills at any level. Congressman Murphy’s bill would also cut funding for SAMHSA and for the advocacy groups such as PA Disability Rights Network who work to maintain the rights of people with disabilities. The PMHCA Website will soon have information about the bill and we will include it in newsletters. We also need to be aware of the PA legislature’s approach to outpatient commitment and expect that they will introduce another bill in the next legislative session. When testimony is required at hearings, we hope people who have experienced forced outpatient treatment will be willing to help us describe their experiences.

Last year’s annual report talked about mental health parity in health insurance. The final federal regulations were released in late 2013. Under the Corbett administration, we found that the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance was not being proactive or making attempts to assure that insurance companies’ health plans had parity, equal or similar benefits for mental and physical health. A meeting is scheduled with the new Insurance Commissioner and we will discuss this issue with her.

Other work we have done this fiscal year with the help of grant funding includes a six month BRSS TACS grant coordinated by Pat Madigan and done in collaboration with PRO-A, the drug and alcohol recovery organization. The regional Community Support Programs were again a great forum for discussions about mental health, Medicaid and ACA insurance through the Marketplace.

PMHCA continues to have funding from the PA Developmental Disabilities Council for the Stigma Project. We want to thank Joe Martin for assisting with the upcoming campaign designed by Suasion, the contracted public relations firm. Stay tuned!

We also continue to pursue our PMHCA goal of eliminating stigma. Pat has made “I’m the Evidence” awards to communities through her work with Community Support Programs. I’m the Evidence was developed by consumers and funding is through MHAPA, with work also done by Shelley Bishop. Lynn presented at the Mercer County recovery day in May which highlighted stigma and what it means to those who are stigmatized and to people who stigmatize. Stigma pops up in unexpected ways and also affects policy decisions. Getting to know your local legislators and safely sharing you recovery stories can help overcome the stigma seen in some legislators.

PMHCA Team and Activities

We now recognize our hardworking staff.

Pat Madigan, Community Outreach Coordinator, continues to be involved with the Keystone Pride Recovery Initiative and assists with training and policy issues. We have also hosted KPRI committee meetings.

Pat continues to provide Leadership in Recovery presentations and facilitation, including one for the annual Clubhouse Coalition conference, and is available to conduct Mental Health Advance Directive training. She was coordinator of our second BRSS TACS grant this year.

Pat again provided technical assistance to the four Community Support Plan regions. She is very good at promoting the concept of “nothing about us without us” through CSP and elsewhere. Strong local and regional CSPs are needed more than ever to provide the input of real life experience to county mental health offices for their annual plans, to legislators and to others in the community. They have been active in the OMHSAS strategic planning process and prepared innovative seed grants this year. Pat has assisted a couple counties reinstate their CSPs.

Tyler Eppley is our Fiscal Manager. He works with Scott Plummer, our bookkeeper/fiscal consultant, to keep track of all income and expenses. This past year we have had SAMHSA, CMS, BRSS TACS and OMHSAS grants, all with unique budgets and reporting systems. It is Tyler’s responsibility to maintain and submit all related fiscal reports. He also prepared budgets and budget narratives for grant renewals and new grant applications. We again received a clean audit report (available on our web site) and hope to do the same this year. Tyler is also takes on many operations responsibilities. He became certified as a navigator as this year as well.

Samantha Harkins is Administrative Assistant. Hers is the voice you hear when you call the office. She knows her way around our office machines and processes. And she can handle calls from people who are upset or in need of someone to talk to as well as anyone. She takes meeting minutes, does meeting planning and much more. She is an important part of all PMHCA activities.

Ellen Schellenberger joined PMHCA in 2013 as a Health Insurance Navigator. She completed the CMS training for certification in 2014 and 2015 and is experienced in navigating the ins and outs of the new Health Insurance Marketplace and Medicaid. She perseveres in getting people completely through the process. Neither enrollment system is perfect so she has to roll with the glitches.

Deb Hodges Hull provides information and referral services as a Behavioral Health Navigator and is a certified Health Insurance Navigator. She is employed by MHAPA and housed at the PMHCA office. We are glad to have her collaborating with us as we do our individual and systems advocacy.

There are numerous opportunities for all of us to participate in collaborations and on work groups and committees that may enhance the quality of our public mental health system. A few are listed here.

Future

The staff and Board of PMHCA thank all of our members and supporters. We must bring our voices together to promote recovery, acceptance and life in the community for everyone.

Last year, with funding from two grants, PMHCA staff did not need to be laid off during the time period when the OMHSAS funding year stops and allocations are received, usually July through October. We did have hours reduced during the summers of the previous two fiscal years. It looks like we may again have to sign up for partial unemployment but not all the numbers are in yet. We will let members know when the final determination is made.

We have had to accept that PMHCA will remain smaller in staff while state government experiences lower revenues and that we cannot host an annual conference until or unless we get back to previous funding levels. We continue to advocate for advocacy! Included in our state funding request for the coming fiscal year are funds to deliver a train the trainer class for people to deliver Mental Health Advanced Directive training and an additional staff person.

Our beliefs in consumer run organizations and services remain a primary motivation for our work. The activities we undertake to combat stigma, educate people about mental health needs and to provide individual and systems advocacy continue. With your support and hope, and your memberships and donations, we can keep moving forward together to promote recovery and overcome stigma.

These are challenging times but with the help of our members, our friends and collaborative partners plus the concepts of hope, recovery and resiliency, we will continue to overcome the challenges, use the lessons we learn from our experiences and work together to promote recovery and overcome stigma.

Presented by
Lynn Keltz, Executive Director
Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association
June 19, 2015

Lynn Kletz, Executive Director
Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association