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Advocacy: The act of speaking, acting, or writing in support of a cause or idea in order to defend the rights, needs, and interests of a person or group of people who are disadvantaged by society.

Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association provides and participates in individual and systems advocacy for people in Pennsylvania who have, or are recovering from, mental illness.

Governor Tom Wolf signed the Pennsylvania FY2016-2017 Revenue Package

On July 13, Governor Tom Wolf signed the Pennsylvania FY2016-2017 revenue package, finalizing the state's budget and avoiding a lengthy impasse.

Below is an overview of the budget's behavioral and mental health funding.

Behavioral Health Services Funding

Thanks to bi-partisan support, the final spending plan includes significant funding to fight the opioid abuse epidemic in Pennsylvania.

Suspension Versus Termination of Medicaid Benefits

As part of the budget the human services code was amended to allow for the temporary (up to two years) suspension-as opposed to termination-of Medicaid benefits for individuals entering the corrections system. This allows people who are incarcerated for no more than two years to quickly reactivate their coverage upon release. This is a significant step to assist people rejoining communities and we applaud Governor Wolf, Senator Pat Vance, and the General Assembly for bi-partisan support.

Mental Health Community Funding

Year after year, state legislators and governors talk about the importance of mental health treatment services and supports-at least until the time arrives when they have to fund the system. Following what has become the annual ritual, throughout this past year there were public hearings and meetings during which insufficient funding for the community mental health system was identified as a serious and ongoing issue. Unfortunately, the final spending plan continues that disturbing trend of not providing the level of funding that meets the need.

Governor Wolf proposed the following:

Once again, there is no restoration of the devastating 2012-2013 funding cuts. Taking restoration out of the equation, the funding increase included in the final spending plan is more than $7 million short of what the Governor proposed.

At this point, we do not know how the remaining funding shortfall will be implemented.

We do know that the mental health system is going to be underfunded AGAIN and individuals, their families, and Pennsylvania's communities are going to suffer the consequences.

The analysis provided by The Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania.

Mental Health Legislation Flies in the Face of the Federal Government's Efforts to Promote Community Integration - and Would Send the Mental Health Systems Decades Backward

H.R. 2646 - Rep. Tim Murphy's (R-PA) mental health legislation flies in the face of the federal government's efforts to promote community integration, and would send mental health systems decades backward.

H.R. 2646 would destroy the main system of legal representation for Americans with psychiatric disabilities, would strip away privacy rights, would incentivize needless hospitalization and civil rights violations, and would redirect federal funds from effective, voluntary community services to high-cost, forced treatment, including involuntary outpatient commitment.

Learn more:

H.R. 2646 - Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015

Why are so many mentally ill people imprisoned in Pennsylvania?

From article in Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, August 2, 2015.

Lynn Keltz, executive director of Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association, a group that represents people with mental illnesses, is deeply skeptical. Keltz, an ardent supporter of the closure of state hospitals, said that even if PennLive's figures on mental illness in the correctional system in 2014 are correct, she believes there's no historical research to prove that they've grown over time. Read more ...

Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

Did you know that parity in health insurance coverage for mental health and substance use disorder benefits with medical and surgical benefits is the law? Read more ....

SNAP (foodstamp) asset test eliminated!

Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Tom Wolf and Acting Secretary Ted Dallas, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services eliminated the asset test for foodstamps. Under the asset test program many people with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians were removed from the SNAP program and lost much needed foodstamps.

The asset test has been eliminated as of April 27, 2015.

The asset test was adopted in 2012 by the former Gov. Tom Corbett's administration. It restricted the amount of assets families could have to qualify for food stamps, otherwise known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

Health Law PA News: A Publication of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project

Posted January 12, 2015

The Pennsylvania Health Law Project has provided a newsletter with up to date information that is helpful to people searching for medical insurance coverage.

Most of Pennsylvania’s 1.1 million adult Medicaid recipients will not be adversely affected by the Healthy PA benefit changes that started on January 1, 2015 ... continue reading newsletter.

Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD) program Saved

Posted July 25, 2014

Department of Public Welfare (DPW) Secretary Beverly Mackereth announced on July 24, 2014 that DPW has shelved the planned elimination of the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD) program. The program was scheduled to end effective January 1, 2015.

PMHCA advocated to maintain MAWD, within our comments against establishment of Healthy PA. PMHCA encourages the PA Department of Public Welfare to expand Medicaid now.

MAWD provides health coverage to over 34,000 working Pennsylvanians with disabilities who don’t qualify for other categories of Medical Assistance, usually due to their earnings. It provides an important incentive for people with disabilities to work and still keep their Medical Assistance coverage. It allows individuals with disabilities to work without fear of losing their critically important health insurance coverage, including personal assistance services and other supports they need to get and keep a job and remain in the community.

The Pennsylvania Health Law Project worked closely with numerous disability organizations and individuals on MAWD to highlight how eliminating this program would have a devastating effect. Our advocacy efforts included drafting and coordinating comments to state and federal officials by many disability organizations and the Consumer Subcommittee of the Medical Assistance Advisory Committee, assisting affected individuals in drafting their own comments, and providing information to stakeholders.

PMHCA applauds the decision by Secretary Mackereth and the Corbett Administration to continue the MAWD program. MAWD provides vital health coverage and community supports for working Pennsylvanians with disabilities.

Membership in PMHCA

One of the benefits of membership in the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association is being included on the membership email list. All members receive emails with timely information on policy and legislative issues and action alerts, notice of trainings, conferences and Mental Health recovery employment opportunities throughout the state. Become a member today.