Governor Corbett will present his proposed 2012/13 state budget on February 7 and it is anticipated that the Department of Public Welfare budget may be cut. The budget will not be finalized until much later, usually by the end of June. There is significant opportunity to impact the final budget numbers by strong and effective advocacy in the districts. In the current economic climate it is more crucial than ever that community providers reach out to local legislators to educate them regarding the importance of maintaining the community safety net for constituents in need of mental health, intellectual disability, or substance use disorder services.
It is imperative that members contact legislators in their district offices to urge them to support funding mental health, intellectual disability, and substance use disorder services at a level that enables community agencies to continue to provide quality services. Visits are most effective if framed by:
- educating legislators about your agency and the important role it plays in his or her district as both an employer and as a resource for constituents in need of services;
- advocating for the key role of community services as a more effective and less costly modality for the provision of mental health, intellectual disability, and substance use disorder services; and
- most importantly, how possible budget cuts impact your agency and, consequently, their constituents.
For supporting material, please review the talking points document referred to below.
Important information to highlight concerning your role as an employer includes the following.
- The number of consumers/persons your organization serves annually.
- The number of individuals employed by your organization. Remember that you are an employer – besides salaries, consider other rising costs (for example, increasing health care costs) at your organization. Be specific.
- Remember that you are a business and purchaser of services – think about the amount spent on utilities (including vehicles, gasoline, phones, computers, furniture, food, postage, supplies, training, etc.). Make it clear to your legislator that your organization is vital to your community’s economy.
When contacting legislators the following materials should be shared:
- The Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Talking Points,
- The Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Coalition letter to legislators regarding cuts to intellectual disability services, and
- The Kaiser Family Foundation report on The Role of Medicaid in State Economies.
It is important to note that PCPA members agree with the necessity of a balanced state budget, but not on the backs of individuals served. If services to Pennsylvanians in need of mental health, intellectual disability, autism, or addiction care are to remain accessible and effective, funding must be preserved and Pennsylvania’s safety net must be protected. To avoid the implementation of cuts to community services, it is crucially important that members take action.