Flat-funding threatens sustainability of mental health services

The Susquehanna County Courthouse was built in the Greek Revival style – one of the architectural styles prominent in the Montrose Historic District which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

Counties will not see an increase from the state this year in the mental health base funding, despite it being a top priority of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

Commissioners Elizabeth Arnold, Alan Hall and Judith Herschel all attended the CCAP conference held last week and said, at the Friday, Aug. 12 meeting, that the topic was a concern raised at the conference.

Lackawanna-Susquehanna BH/ID/EI Program administrator Maryann Colbert said that county mental health services have been basically flat-funded by the state for the past 13 years. She explained that funding increases are needed just to sustain services that are currently being provided. Colbert said operating costs for some services far exceeds funding.

Colbert said, “As an example of that, we spend just over $400,000 to support ones who live with mental illness alone in apartments in Susquehanna County. We spend that much because we have been flat funded for 13 years, but the cost of operating it far exceeds that. “There is going to come a point in time where the provider that delivers that service is going to say, ‘We can’t do it any longer.’”

Colbert also spoke about the state’s allocation of $100 million for the creation of a Behavioral Health Commission for Adult Mental Health “who might decide to give the county some money after their work is done is not going to be very helpful.”

“We need money right now to continue to provide services that the people are getting and then we can think about expanding,” she said., “but we’re having difficulty sustaining services.”

Herschel expressed frustration with the funding noting increased mental health issues and staff shortages. “We’re extremely concerned how the funding will affect Susquehanna County,” she said.

Hall noted that school districts received grants aimed at mental health programs.

Colbert offered, “The main reason counties need funding is to sustain services offered right now.”

Earlier this month, CCAP detailed an increase of about $43 million from the state for mental health, but no increase to county mental health base funds “despite repeated calls for increased state funding to support the crumbling mental health system as a priority for 2022.”

A CCAP release stated: “While the mental health services line in the General Fund contains an overall increase of about $43 million over the FY 2021-2022 appropriation, this line is shared among several other mental health-related needs, including state-owned hospitals and administration, as well as the county mental health base.

The commissioners approved the following agenda items:

*reappointments/appointments to the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission Advisory Committee;

*appoint Jason Miller as trustee to the Susquehanna County Historical Society & Free Library Association;

*appoint Mike Faillace, of Dimock, and Ron Cieslak, Susquehanna, to the Susquehanna County Economic Development Advisory Board;

*agreements with Lackawanna-Susquehanna BH/ID/EI program for the 2022-23 fiscal year;

*purchase of two vehicles for snow removal and cindering.

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