The Board of Bucks County Commissioners this week called on state lawmakers to boost funding for mental health services to help counties fortify the state’s strained mental health treatment system.
The commissioners’ call came in the form a resolution, approved unanimously during the board’s Wednesday meeting, and a signed letter sent to the county’s state legislators outlining concerns and urging action to address long-running shortfalls in Mental Health Base Funds.
“Certainly anybody who has spent any time in the mental health field knows this has been a problem in America for a very, very long time,” said Commissioner Chair Bob Harvie.
Mental health programs statewide took a hit in 2012 when the state cut $84 million from Mental Health Base Funds. The state also has not made cost-of-living adjustments to the funding since 2008.
Community-based mental health providers, meanwhile, are seeing demand for services far outpacing state funding levels.
Mental Health Base Funds have funded critical programs, including the training of more than 600 law enforcement professionals on techniques for de-escalating encounters with people experiencing mental health crises.
The funds also have helped provide hundreds of struggling county residents with supportive housing.
Thanks to programs funded by Mental Health Base Funds, the commissioners’ resolution says, suicide rates in Bucks County have decreased despite national upward trends.
But much more remains to be done.
With increased funding, the county could better assist people without health insurance in accessing mental health services, the resolution says. The county could also ensure employees and providers are paid better wages as they serve the county’s most vulnerable populations.
Additional funding could also help the county increase training efforts in schools, and would be critical in developing a crisis response center to alleviate strain on emergency rooms.
The commissioners’ plea to the General Assembly is part of a statewide effort calling for increased mental health funding led by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.
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