HAP's Latest News

4 Takeaways from Today’s DOH Senate Budget Hearing

March 09, 2022

Leaders from the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) today outlined the health care priorities included in Governor Wolf’s 2022–2023 budget proposal, as well as the public health challenges facing the commonwealth.

During a Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing, Acting Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter thanked Pennsylvania’s front-line health care workers and staff for their response to the pandemic, while noting the ongoing strain on the state’s hospitals.

“I would extend that gratitude to all our front-line health care workers who are in our hospitals, our long-term care facilities, home health, etc.,” she said. “I think the work that all of them have done collectively has saved thousands of lives, and I’m very appreciative to each of them.”

Among the takeaways from the hearing:

  • Behavioral health:  Pennsylvania has an urgent need to grow the behavioral health workforce and ensure services are available to meet patient needs. State lawmakers also asked about additional strategies to reduce overdose deaths, such as legalizing fentanyl test strips
  • Health Care Workforce:  Klinepeter said Act 2, a bipartisan $225 million package supporting front-line health professionals, was an important starting point, but that Pennsylvania needs more action to bolster the health care workforce
  • Pennsylvania’s state lab:  Governor Wolf’s proposed budget includes additional funding to improve testing and staffing, and a new statewide wastewater surveillance program
  • Social determinants of health:  Klinepeter highlighted Pennsylvania’s Rural Health Model as a strong example of innovation to address health needs in local communities

Lawmakers also asked Klinepeter about COVID-19 vaccination and testing rates, recent changes in the state’s medical marijuana program, lead remediation, and other critical public health concerns facing the commonwealth.

Released during February, Governor Wolf’s $43.7 billion budget includes several new investments in health care, including:

  • $75 million in federal funds to recruit and retain behavioral health providers
  • $36.6 million to invest in critical county behavioral health services
  • $15 million in federal funds to stabilize payments to substance use disorder treatment providers and assist with pandemic related expenses
  • $200 million for a need-based scholarship program for Pennsylvania state-system and community college students who commit to working within the state upon graduation and pursue careers in high-need sectors, including health care

Additional information about Governor Wolf’s budget proposal is available online. HAP will continue to advocate with the General Assembly for health care priorities to be addressed in the spending plan.

The hearing is available online.

For questions on HAP’s state budget advocacy, contact Heather Tyler, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy.