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Campaign Mounts to Protect Pennsylvania's Mental Health Services

Advocates Dial In to Protest Budget Cuts

HARRISBURG, Pa., June 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Hundreds of mental health advocates participated in yesterday's Statewide Mental Health Call-In Day to protest proposed mental health cuts by the Governor and the state Senate.

In his 2009-2010 budget proposal, Governor Rendell recommended a $3 million cut in community mental health funds. The Senate's proposal, SB 850, cuts an additional $24 million. "If the proposed cuts are enacted, Pennsylvania's mental health system will not be able to meet the current need for essential services at a time when the need is rising," said Sue Walther, executive director of The Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania (MHAPA). "The state's community mental health programs are documenting a growing number of people seeking treatment because they are unemployed and without insurance; are veterans coming back from the war; or are people experiencing significant and increased anxiety over economic instability."

In the past month advocates across the Commonwealth including members of MHAPA, Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association, Disability Rights Network (DRN), NAMI and Family Training and Advocacy Center have come together to mount letter writing campaigns, email blasts, visits, and calls to legislators to voice their concerns about mental health budget cuts and, more specifically, SB 850.

SB 850 proposes to reduce the community mental health budget by approximately $10 million. This cut is in addition to the Governor's proposed two percent decrease. Advocates estimate this would cut off community services to more than 4,000 individuals. In this same legislation, Behavioral Health Services Initiative (BHSI) would be reduced by 24 percent ($13.532 million) which would eliminate services to 2,761 individuals with mental illness and 7,500 individuals in need of substance abuse treatment.

"Cutting funding for behavioral health services does not mean that the persons in need will just go away. When they are denied services that support their recovery, they are likely to end up in other systems that are more costly and less effective, such as homeless shelters, and emergency rooms, and systems that are inappropriate, such as corrections," said Judy Banks, deputy director of DRN.

"I was able to begin the road to recovery because of the state's commitment to community services which positively impact recovery," said Carl Mosier, a mental health consumer from Scranton. "Now, thousands of people like me will be turned away from the same and the state will spend more money taking care of us instead of us taking care of ourselves."

Actions continue with a cross-disability rally and press conference sponsored by DRN and Disabled in Action on June 11th at noon in the Cafeteria Rotunda of the PA State Capitol (the Commonwealth Avenue entrance).

SOURCE Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania
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