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EDITORIAL: Improve mental health care
The Citizens' Voice - 2/10/2020
Feb. 10--Mental health care most often comes to the broad public's attention as an aspect of a different story -- the opioid crisis, mass incarceration, access to deadly weapons, and so on.
But for people with mental health issues and their families, and the professionals who try to help them, it's a daily reality and often a long, difficult grind.
In Pennsylvania county governments provide an array of mental health services that are funded primarily by the state government. At a recent legislative hearing, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania told legislators that increased state mental health funding is the counties' top policy priority.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced several new mental health initiatives in January, and legislators from both parties in both houses have expressed the need to improve mental health care access in a variety of ways, including through more school psychologists, greater access to addiction treatment, parity for mental and physical health care in insurance coverage, and more.
In a good sign, Republican Rep. Tom Murt of Montgomery County, chairman of the House Human Services Committee, agreed with the commissioners. He said he suspected that inadequate state spending on mental health has contributed to increased homelessness, and that many veterans are in jail because the state has not provided adequate resources to help those with mental health issues return to civilian life.
Lawmakers should restore $81 million in mental health services funding that was cut due to budget constraints in 2013. And they should listen to the local officials to ensure that state mental health services funding goes to where it is needed most.
Mental health care is not a partisan issue because mental illness is completely unbiased; it can affect anyone at any time. The Legislature should rise to this challenge.
(c)2020 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)
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