Harrisburg – January 24, 2020 – One of the General Assembly’s leading advocates for expanding mental health programs, services and funding said today that this year’s state budget must make mental health a priority.
State Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) called for more funding and focus on mental health issues during this year’s state budget deliberations. Last year, Brewster repeatedly called for more attention to mental health issues in schools from his position as a member of the state School Safety Committee.
“Many members of the General Assembly and the governor have spoken out for program expansion and robust funding for mental health services,” Brewster said. “The problem is that there have been too many instances when much-needed funding and program support has been sidelined by other pressing budget needs.
“This year, adequate funding for mental health is the pressing need!”
More than 1 million Pennsylvania adults suffered with psychological distress and more than a quarter had an unmet need, according to a report cited by the Wolf Administration. The report also said that more than 40 percent of those needing mental health care did not receive it because it was unaffordable.
The attorney general recently announced year-end results for the school-based “Safe-to-Say Something” program. Reinforcing the need for additional mental health resources, the report noted that there were over 40,000 tips — with a substantial number of mental health-related issues.
Brewster said he is pleased that the governor made mental health a top issue as a result of his new “Reach Out PA” initiative. Brewster noted that a part of the governor’s plan was to add more counselors focused on mental health concerns, an issue he has championed.
“As a member of the School Safety and Security Committee, I have championed mental health services,” Brewster said. “At my request, a subcommittee has been formed to study my idea of requiring baseline safety elements – including mental health counselors.”
In addition to Brewster’s efforts with the School Safety and Security Committee, he has introduced legislation (Senate Bill 788) that would statutorily establish baseline safety standards, including a focus on mental health services, for all schools.
“There are so many needs to address as it relates to mental health,” Brewster said. “There are also many ideas and ways to improve the lives of those who need assistance.”
Brewster added that the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania has made increased funding for mental health services a priority. He said they are seeking funds for community-based mental health services including residential programs, family-based support, outpatient care and crisis intervention.