header includes circle logo and word collage

PMHCA Joins Lawsuit to Stop Budget Cuts

Our Budget Advocacy: Edition Four

This year's advocacy focus has been to stop Governor Corbett's proposed 20% cuts to community mental health services, to stop the proposed block grant that would cut even more services and to stop cuts to General Assistance.

Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association (PMHCA) joined in a lawsuit filed by the Disability Rights Network and attorney Stephen Gold on March 14, 2012 to address the budget crisis.

This year we have found it necessary to focus our advocacy efforts on Governor Corbett's proposed cuts to the community mental health services needed by so many who are on the road to mental health recovery. The lawsuit has become another way to continue PMHCA's long term efforts to develop a more recovery oriented mental health system.

PMHCA members and all Pennsylvania citizens are urged to contact their legislators and County Commissioners or County Council members to explain why community mental health services are important and to ask them to vote against these cuts.

The Disability Rights Network issued the following press release about the lawsuit.

Press Release

Governor Tom Corbett and the Department of Public Welfare Face Lawsuit Over Cuts to Services for Pennsylvanians with Disabilities

Contact: Carol Horowitz (412) 258-2131

Harrisburg, PA (March 14, 2012) - Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania and attorney Stephen F. Gold filed a lawsuit today in Commonwealth Court against Governor Tom Corbett, the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), and the Office of the Budget over proposed budget cuts to services for Pennsylvanians with disabilities.

In an effort to preserve critical services for individuals with mental illness and intellectual disabilities, the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, The Arc of Pennsylvania, PA Mental Health Consumers Association, Vision for EQuality, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southwestern PA, Speaking for Ourselves, and the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania are taking legal action to stop the chronic underfunding of services and prevent the devastating impact from the 20 percent funding cut and transfer of funds to the Human Services Development Fund (HSDF) Block Grant in the Governor's proposed budget. It would also require the Governor and DPW to provide adequate mental health and intellectual disability services to all Pennsylvanians who need them.

"For years, DPW has consistently asked for and received woefully inadequate appropriations to support services for Pennsylvanians with disabilities that are mandated under the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Act of 1966," says Mark Murphy, CEO of Disability Rights Network of PA. "Cutting 20 percent for critical services that are already appallingly underfunded is beyond irresponsible."

The organizations are asking the court to "declare that Corbett's and DPW's proposal to transfer Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities (MH/ID) funds to the HSDF Block Grant or combine MH/ID appropriations with appropriations for other services violates the MH/ID Act."

"While we support the Administration's desire to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse in welfare programs, it is important to separate critical services needed by persons with disabilities from welfare fraud," says Maureen Cronin, Executive Director, The Arc of Pennsylvania. "There are almost 16,000 Pennsylvanians with intellectual and developmental disabilities on waiting lists for services, more than 3,000 of whom are in need of emergency services. We know of no families that are 'gaming' the system – they are simply desperate for help."

"This ill-advised attempt to balance Pennsylvania's budget on the backs of people with mental illness and disabilities is a recipe for social and economic disaster," says Debbie F. Plotnick, Director of Advocacy, Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania. "Ultimately this action will result in increased use of the most costly services such as emergency rooms and crisis centers. Undoubtedly, we will see increased numbers of people experiencing homelessness, incarceration, and institutionalization, greatly increasing costs to taxpayers and wiping out any short term savings."

The organizations are seeking relief from the Court in the form of mandamus and an injunction to require Governor Corbett and DPW to comply with their obligations under the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Act of 1966.

Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania is a statewide, non–profit corporation designated as the federally-mandated organization to advance and protect the civil rights of adults and children with disabilities. Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania works with people with disabilities and their families to ensure their rights to live in their communities with the services they need, to receive a full and inclusive education, to live free of discrimination, abuse and neglect, and to have control and self–determination over their services. Print version of this press release.

Contact Us

Let us know how the proposed budget could affect your life. Email or call us at 1-800-887-6422 or 717-564-4930.

Assistance with letter writing, legislator and county commissioner visits, making phone calls and more is available from PMHCA staff.

What will YOU do to stop the cuts from happening?

Legislators need to hear stories from YOU to understand how these cuts will affect the lives of people in need.

Visit the advocacy ACT NOW section of our Web site for ideas of what to say to legislators, letter-writing examples, and how to educate others about the impact of the proposed changes.

Do your part – take action NOW.

Take Action NOW

Find your legislators and their contact information on the Pennsylvania General Assembly Web site and tell them to OPPOSE the block grant, STOP the cuts and RESTORE funding.

Resources

If you haven't already, read Broken Promises. We have provided a print version of the Broken Promises document for your use as you advocate.

Also, read Budget Talking Points. We have provided a print version of the Budget Talking Points document for your use as you advocate.

Dated: March 28, 2012