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Counties Call for Immediate Action on Mental Health Funding and 911

News Date: Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Leaders representing counties across the Commonwealth gathered at the Pennsylvania Capitol on Wednesday to call on the General Assembly and Shapiro Administration to take immediate action, within the FY 2023-2024 state budget process, to increase county mental health funding and reauthorize the 911 call-taking and dispatch system.

“Though both of these items are crucial to the well-being of all Pennsylvanians, they are currently at a critical crossroads, something that should concern every single person living in Commonwealth,” said CCAP President and Venango County Commissioner Chip Abramovic. “No matter who you are or what part of the state you live in, I feel certain that you, or someone you know, has been helped by county mental health and/or 911 services.”

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Counties have not seen an increase in mental health base funds since 2008, putting many services and programs at risk. Counties are calling for an investment of $150 million in the county mental health base for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, in addition to the allocation of the $100 million in federal ARPA dollars for adult mental health, to begin the rebuilding process.

“Awareness is a powerful tool – for instance, residents are aware of the need for more mental health funding, counties are aware of the need for more mental health funding and the Administration and General Assembly are aware of the need for more mental funding. But right now, awareness isn’t the problem; action is,” said George Hartwick, Dauphin County Commissioner and Chair of the CCAP Human Services Committee.  “Pennsylvania residents have waited long enough while the impacts of 15 years of not keeping pace with increases have unraveled the county mental health system.”

In addition to mental health funding, counties need urgent action on 911 reauthorization. The current 911 statue sunsets in January 2024 and even a one-year delay at the current funding level would force counties to fund nearly 38% of the system with county property tax dollars.

“911 is the backbone of emergency response. We don’t think about it unless we need it, but when we need it, we want it to be there, we want it to work efficiently and effectively, and we want trained dispatchers on the other end who can get us the help we need as quickly as possible,” said Mark Hamilton, Tioga County commissioner and Co-Chair of the CCAP Emergency Management and Veteran Affairs Committee.

Counties are calling for a modest increase in the 911 surcharge to $2.30, with a $0.15 increase each year until the next reauthorization in five years.

“This is an incredible value for the peace of mind that someone will always answer your call in a time of crisis,” Hamilton said.

Pennsylvania counties are hopeful that the General Assembly and Administration will address both county mental health funding and 911 reauthorization when they reconvene in Harrisburg, given the severity of the situation.

“Counties provide two of the most important services in the Commonwealth, and they are both in dire need of support from the General Assembly and Administration,” Abramovic said. “Neither of these services can afford to have the state kick the can down the road anymore. This isn’t a next year problem. It’s not even a next month problem. It’s a now problem.”