New Proposal Would Fund Innovative Programs to Bolster Post-pandemic Health Care
PA Heroes Act grants would fund community-based programs to support health care workforce, improve access to behavioral health care
May 06, 2021
During a press conference today, lawmakers and members of the Pennsylvania hospital community unveiled the Health Care Heroes and Public Health Preparedness (PA Heroes) Act.
The measure, supported by The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), would set aside $650 million of Pennsylvania’s share of the federal Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to support grants for the hospital community to restore the commonwealth’s health care workforce, strengthen public health infrastructures, and improve access to care—especially behavioral health care.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania’s hospitals have served an extraordinary public health role: from treating tens of thousands of patients, to running testing clinics, to administering more than three million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. For more than a year, the hospital community has embraced this public health leadership role; however, it has not come without a devastating toll. Some impacts can be quantified. Other impacts—like the toll this has taken on patients and the more than 300,000 hospital employees—may never truly be known,” said Andy Carter, HAP president and CEO.
The PA Heroes Act is an innovative program that would empower the individuals and organizations on the front lines of the pandemic to lead the creation of new and innovative programs that address the specific needs of the communities they serve.
The measure has bipartisan, bicameral support from lawmakers across the state. House Bill 1359 is co-prime sponsored by state Representatives Greg Rothman (R-Cumberland) and Stephen Kinsey (D-Philadelphia). State Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-Beaver, Greene, Washington) is the prime sponsor of the companion legislation, Senate Bill 642.
“Especially during this past year, Pennsylvania’s hospital workforce has shown incredible selflessness, grit, and heroism. They’ve kept our hospitals up and running, and able to care for everyone who needs it. I am proud to sponsor the PA Heroes Act, legislation that will help our hospitals care for our caregivers—supporting them through this difficult time—and build a resilient and robust workforce of the future,” said state Representative Greg Rothman.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the need for greater access to care for the whole person—body and mind. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that all Pennsylvanians can get the help they need to cope with the stress of the past year. The PA Heroes Act will help hospitals in my district and across the state develop the partnerships they need to help their patients receive critical behavioral health care in a variety of settings, including telehealth,” said state Representative Stephen Kinsey.
“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, I saw my district’s hospitals take a leadership role in testing, treating, and vaccinating our communities. For years, our hospitals have put us first, and now it is time to ensure they have the tools they need to continue to serve us. I am proud to sponsor the PA Heroes Act in the Senate to empower our hospitals to find innovative solutions and partnerships to keep our public health system strong,” said state Senator Camera Bartolotta.
Lou Panza, president and CEO, Monongahela Valley Hospital, and Dr. Erika Saunders, chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Penn State Health, joined the conference to discuss how the PA Heroes Act could help their hospitals realize projects to bolster their public health preparedness and behavioral health services, respectively.
Possible grant proposals could include:
- Support for health care employees, including counseling, resiliency, and retention programs; and day care programs for children of employees
- Programs to promote trust in the COVID-19 vaccines and provide special outreach to underserved communities
- Public health infrastructure improvements to help prepare for future health emergencies
- Specialized training programs to support telemedicine or resources to build out telepsychiatry programs for hospitals in rural and underserved areas
- Community programs to recruit, train, and retain behavioral health providers in high-need areas
“While hospitals are united in the mission to deliver excellent care to everyone who needs it, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to solving the challenges that each community faces. The Health Care Heroes and Public Health Preparedness Act will help our commonwealth’s hospitals deliver the programs and projects that their patients need most, and we encourage the General Assembly and the Governor to allocate federal funds to support this measure,” Carter continued.
The PA Heroes Act bills await referral to their respective state House and Senate committees.