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:
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.
Act 22 of 2011 provides the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) the authority to address current fiscal challenges and budgetary limitations by imposing a co-payment on services for certain children enrolled in the Medical Assistance (MA) program. The Office of Medical Assistance Programs (OMAP) has announced that this co-payment for services will be implemented in September. It will affect approximately 38,000 children with disabilities living in a family with income in excess of 200 percent of the federal poverty level. OMAP is in the process of finalizing plans. Notices will be sent to affected families 30 days prior to implementation.
Providers will be responsible for collection of co-payments and may do so at the time of service or set other arrangements for payment. The yearly cost of co-payments for service may not exceed five percent of the family’s income and may not be in excess of 20 percent of the cost of the service. The MA claims processing system will be used to regulate the family income cap so that the ceiling of five percent on a monthly or quarterly basis is not exceeded. Co-payments will not be applied to school-based services, preventative services, and other items or services that are currently excluded from MA co-payment. It is unclear whether providers will be required to provide services if the co-payment is not paid. MA representatives have stated that the law does not establish an exception process for co-payments.
PCPA will continue to update members as new information is received.
Governor Corbett has nominated Gary Tennis of Philadelphia to serve as secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. The new department was created as a result of Act 50 signed into law before Governor Rendell left office. The Corbett administration had decided last year not to create the department, citing budgetary constraints, but has decided to move forward.
Tennis is retired from his previous position as chief of the legislation unit in the Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Office, where he represented the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association working with the General Assembly. He has more than 25 years of legislative experience and served as executive director of the President’s Commission on Model State Drug Laws in 1993. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Tulsa in 1975 and was a Rhodes Scholarship nominee. He is also a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania Law School.
It was reported that Tennis’s first order of business will be to analyze the provision of drug and alcohol services, which are currently provided through several agencies including the Departments of Health and Public Welfare. Tennis has been charged with taking a “commonsense approach to streamlining and eliminating duplication of state drug and alcohol treatment and prevention efforts in Pennsylvania.”
The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs was created under Act 50 of 2010. It will establish a plan for the management and allocation of state and federal funds used to oversee alcohol and drug prevention, intervention, and treatment services. The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is currently located in the Health and Welfare building. The Pennsylvania Department of Health is assisting in the agency’s formation.
PCPA will work with the new department to assure that member issues and priorities are addressed.