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5 Ways Pennsylvania is Working to Improve Behavioral Health Care

July 11, 2022

Help is on the way to begin to address Pennsylvania’s behavioral health crisis.

The General Assembly and Governor Tom Wolf took several steps recently to support Pennsylvanians’ access to behavioral health care, including making significant investments in the 2022–2023 state budget.

Many Pennsylvanians are struggling to access the behavioral health care they need because of a lack of available services. Pennsylvania hospitals play a key role in delivering behavioral health care and are working with state leaders to address this crisis.

Here are five steps the commonwealth is taking to support Pennsylvanians’ mental health now and in the long term.

  • Investing in needed services:  The 2022–2023 budget adopted last week includes a significant $42.6 million funding increase for county mental health programs. This investment will bolster at-home and community-based services that support Pennsylvanians’ mental health.
  • Improving care and access:  Set aside in the budget is $100 million for efforts to improve the delivery and sustainability of behavioral health care. Over the next few months, a special task force will meet with stakeholders and make recommendations to the General Assembly and governor for how to best spend the money to improve behavioral health care in the commonwealth and Pennsylvanians’ access to it.
  • Supporting students:  The budget also includes $100 million for schools to support students’ mental health by hiring their own staff or contracting with behavioral health care providers.
  • Taking a whole-person approach:  Lawmakers recently passed and the governor signed Acts 32 and 33 of 2022, which improve coordination between physical and behavioral health providers to support a whole-person approach to health care. Specifically, the bills update laws governing information sharing related to care for behavioral health and substance use disorder to align with HIPAA and other federal requirements.
  • Supporting access through telehealth:  The General Assembly last week passed House Bill 2419, which enhances Pennsylvanians’ access to behavioral health services via telehealth. The measure will help more Pennsylvanians access the care they need amid a shortage of behavioral health services and providers. The bill has been sent to the governor for his signature.

“HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospital community thank the General Assembly and Governor Wolf for making Pennsylvanians’ mental health a priority in this year’s state budget,” HAP President and CEO Andy Carter said in a statement last week. “State investments will help more Pennsylvanians access care when and where they need it. Pennsylvania’s behavioral health crisis is complex and addressing it will require many strategies over the long term. This budget takes important steps to meaningfully improve the lives of many Pennsylvanians, their families, and our communities.”

Details about HAP’s continued behavioral health advocacy are available online.

For additional information, contact Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy, or Heather Tyler, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy.