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Summary of OMHSAS Budget Briefing

August 10, 2011

Acting OMHSAS Deputy Secretary Sherry Snyder presented a budget briefing on August 10, 2011. Primary points included:

Effective advocacy

We believe that collaborative advocacy efforts helped prevent the rumored 10% to 12% cuts to the county base funds.

Ms. Snyder reiterated the OMHSAS commitment to implementation of best practices that both serve people well and save money. An example given was the increased use of psychiatric rehabilitation instead of partial hospitalization programs.

There are still areas of concern.

Ms. Snyder emphasized that the budget does not include any of the planned Act 22 (Public Welfare Code Amendments) funding cuts or policy changes. Act 22 gives the DPW Secretary unprecedented authority to implement regulatory changes without prior review, legislative oversight or adequate time for stakeholder input, in order to keep DPW's budget balanced.

Read the OMHSAS Fact Sheet to learn more about the:

Additional cuts

The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) must find an additional $400 million of savings. There will be additional cuts. It remains to be seen whether this will be done as elimination of the "waste, fraud and abuse" discussed in public forums, or as "streamlining services".

In response to questions about consumer and other stakeholder input into streamlining of OMHSAS services, Ms. Snyder said they are open to all feedback and would consider hosting regional forums. She said she welcomes ideas about how to save money and how to change regulations that will continue to protect health and safety while allowing more flexibility and responsiveness. When asked about how DPW as a whole will decide where to cut $400M, she stated that there are internal processes in place to take a look at this.

Savings

Ms. Snyder also reported that the annual savings to the OMHSAS budget for Behavioral Health Rehabilitative Services (BHRS) generated by tapping third party insurance benefits under Act 62 totaled approximately $3 to $4 million this past fiscal year, far less than has been anticipated each year since the passage of Act 62.

Next steps for advocates

Advocates must continue to maintain and develop relationships with their local and state government officials so that actions can be taken to prevent cuts that have the potential of hurting people in need.

Related reading

Welfare's stigma is difficult to overcome by Lynn Keltz, Executive Director, Op Ed published in Patriot-News, Sunday, August 7, 2011.