PAR Urges PA State Senators to Support COLA Legislation for Community MH/MR Services

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PAR Urges PA State Senators to Support COLA Legislation for Community MH/MR Services

Harrisburg, PA (PRWEB) October 14, 2006

The Pennsylvania Association of Resources for People with Mental Retardation (PAR) calls upon the members of the state Senate to vote yes on House Bill 1813 when it comes up for a vote on Monday, October 16th.

This bill – which has passed the House of Representatives, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously – will help ensure stable funding for essential community mental health and mental retardation services and supports provided to over 250,000 persons with mental retardation and mental illness throughout Pennsylvania.

Community-based mental retardation and mental health services and supports, although completely reliant on state and federal funds to provide essential services to Pennsylvanians with mental retardation and mental illness, have been starved for years with either no increases or only 2% increases in the state budget while inflation and the costs of providing these services – food, fuel, housing, salaries, health and other insurances, etc. – continue to rise.

If enacted, HB 1813 would establish an annual cost-of-living adjustment for community-based MH/MR services based on the federal government’s Home Health Market Basket (cost of living) Index. HB 1813 does not remove the authority and discretion of the legislature in the budgeting process; rather it places community-based MH/MR services on a level playing field with the other major Medicaid provider groups who obtain annual funding through a similar mechanism. These mechanisms simply require the Executive Branch to request an appropriate cost-of-living adjustment in the budget each year, which is still subject to the Legislature’s review and approval.

“We are asking the Commonwealth not to shun the 250,000 individuals with mental retardation or mental illness who are eligible for services and supports. Pennsylvania has a commitment to provide for its most vulnerable citizens. Community providers are dedicated to the persons they serve and their families but services and supports need regular cost of living adjustments (COLA) to survive,” stated Shirley Walker, PAR’s President and CEO.

Walker continued “A consistent lack of adequate funding and absence of a fair COLA has clearly negatively impacted tens of thousands of Pennsylvania workers who are still earning poverty-level wages and there are over 23,000 individuals with mental retardation who are waiting for services – 3,452 of which are in critical, life-threatening situations. It is unconscionable that our great Commonwealth would allow this to happen to its own citizens. Voting yes on this bill is an opportunity to make a change.”

The Governor’s Office has publicly stated that Governor Rendell will most likely veto the legislation if it comes to his desk, citing primarily that they believe HB 1813 would cost too much money. PAR must ask – how can legislation that would provide the opportunity for stable funding for services that are an essential responsibility of government be ignored?

As Pennsylvania’s state budget has continued to grow, funding for mental retardation services has made up a smaller and smaller percentage of it. This bill will not reverse that trend but it will help keep the gap from widening.

It is time for individuals with mental retardation, their families and the people who support them to be treated as a priority of state government. Therefore we urge members of the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office to make that happen by supporting House Bill 1813.

PAR, incorporated in 1970, is the only statewide provider association in Pennsylvania dedicated exclusively to ensuring that the quality of supports and services to individuals with mental retardation and their families is continuously improved. PAR members provide the full range of supports and services to tens of thousands of individuals with mental retardation in over 4,500 locations in the Commonwealth. PAR members also employ over 27,000 Pennsylvanians. PAR is a founding member of the MH/MR Coalition which has worked diligently to support people with mental retardation or mental illness.


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