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Health & Wellness NewsMental Health News

Pa. allocating $100 million in COVID-19 relief funds to mental health

Removing the stigma of seeking mental health is essential

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Monday, Oct. 10 is designated as World Mental Health Day. It was established in 1992 to reduce the stigma towards individuals with mental health conditions. This year, the theme is “Make Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority.”

  • World Mental Health Day is supported by the World Health Organization
  • Nearly 34% of all Pennsylvanians have a mental illness or substance use disorder
  • $100 million is being invested in improving mental health services

According to a report released by Gov. Wolf’s administration last week, nearly 34% of Pennsylvanians have a mental illness or substance use disorder, 3% higher than the prevalence rate for all Americans. In 2020, an estimated 299,000 Pennsylvanians met the criteria for having a substance use disorder.

"When an individual’s behavioral and mental health needs go unmet, the ripple effects on the community at large can be staggering,” said state Sen. Maria Collett (D-Bucks/Montgomery).

The report recommended that $37 million be invested to recruit and retain behavioral health professionals. Currently, the industry suffers from high turnover and recruitment issues. These positions can be emotionally demanding with lower wages and worse benefits than fast food positions.

The commission also recommended that $23.5 million be used to help those inside the criminal justice system. Despite a lack of formal resources, the Department of Corrections and county jails have become the largest providers of mental health services in the state.

“It is an injustice of our system that the neediest members of our community must enter the justice system to access mental healthcare,” said Dauphin County Prison Warden Gregory Briggs.

Expanding programs like prearrest diversion and telehealth for people who are incarcerated, as well as more compassionate approaches to mental health crises, would lead to better outcomes and decrease the strain on correctional resources.

Lastly, the report recommended $39 million be invested in providing access to “innovative models of service delivery,” including 24/7 crisis walk-in centers.

“Every dollar matters in this challenged behavioral health space, and we are hopeful that these funds help to improve behavioral health quality and capacity for those most in need,” said Acting Insurance Commissioner Mike Humphreys.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization estimated that one in eight people worldwide struggled with mental health.

Since the pandemic, overall mental health has worsened, it said, with an estimated 25% rise in anxiety and depression in 2020.