Study on County Mental Health Services Released

county mental health services

“On Feb. 24, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) released a county mental health services report on Community Mental Health Services, as required under HR 515 of 2019. This broad-based study focused on Pennsylvania’s county-administered, community-based mental health services by collecting data from various state agencies and all 67 county mental health administrators.

“The report highlights the history of shifting Pennsylvania’s mental health service system from institutions to more whole-person focused, community-based care, allowing for a more holistic approach to combatting mental health conditions. The study noted that community residential services appear to be the most costly, though the self-reported data can create inconsistencies in reporting, which is typical for many human services. Other data on use of short-term private psychiatric facilities, mental illness in county jails and use of emergency rooms by those in mental health crisis helped to demonstrate how caseloads have increased over recent years. County mental health administrators confirmed those findings, discussing the delays in community residential services due to capacity complications, though they stressed that access to crisis services is where a lot of investment is made due to the critical nature of those services to people in distress.

“In addition, 64% of administrators reported an increase in crisis calls since the pandemic began, noting those statistics may not be as telling since people may feel isolated and may not call for help. A majority of administrators anticipated crisis calls will increase over the next year or so and many stressed the importance of capacity for telehealth and telemedicine services, including availability of broadband access as well as psychiatrists in the state, which can contribute to delays in evaluations. Other issues raised by county administrators were also included in the report.

“This report demonstrates that the current state of community-based mental health services is in need, which has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Counties have continued to advocate for increased funding for community-based county mental health services, a reoccurring county legislative priority.”

SOURCE: Legislative Bulletin, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

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