CURRENT PUBLIC POLICY ISSUES AND HOT TOPICS
At NAMI, we follow the current public policy issues and “hot topics” at the local county level, state level and federal level. We study and analyze the issues and provide summaries of policies, legislation and various systems problems and needs.
LOCAL: On the local county levels, NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania monitors the block grant plans, which have replaced the old, state mental health plan completed by the county MH/ID Administrators. County Block Grants are posted on the county human services websites.
NAMI’s advocacy efforts can be different in each county depending on the identified area of system need. Mental health treatment in county jails, housing needs and drug overdose deaths are examples of local, county level issues.
STATE: On the state level in Pennsylvania, NAMI’s advocacy activities are focused on three main areas: annual state budget, legislation, and the Department of Human Services, Office of Mental Health Substance Abuse Services’ (OMHSAS) policy and regulations.
Current public policy issues we are monitoring in Pennsylvania:
Hot Topic: 2015-2016 PA State Budget
Gov. Wolf announced his budget on March 3, 2015. A $59.8 million increase in Mental Health funding included $4.7 million for a 90-bed CHIPP (Community Hospital Integration Projects Program), $18.3 for one-third restoration of the 10 percent cuts in 2012, and $2.5 million for heroin and opioid addictions initiatives.
Our Position: We support Gov. Wolf’s budget and understand it is a comprehensive budget. We absolutely oppose any cuts to mental health funding. A stopgap measure will not do. We continue to advocate for the mental health funding in the Governor’s budget.
Hot Topic: Medicaid Expansion
The Wolf administration is ending Healthy PA and expanding regular medical assistance.
• Healthy PA enrollment stopped on April 27, 2015
• Regular Medicaid expansion for approximately 600,000 uninsured individuals should be completed by September 2015.
Our position: We supported regular Medicaid expansion and opposed Healthy PA.
Other state legislation NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania is following:
House Bill 400
H.B. 400 is the Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act. Passage of H.B. 400 would enable the OVR (Office of Vocational Rehabilitation) to work with students prior to graduation from high school.
Our Position: We support this bill and have joined the Advocates for Community Employment (ACE) coalition to support full funding for OVR.
Senate Bill 21
S.B. 21 is Sen. Stewart Greenleaf’s AOT (Assisted Outpatient Treatment) bill reintroduced with each new legislative session.
Our Position: NAMI Southwestern PA opposes S.B. 21; we do not support forced or coerced treatment and medication. Also, there is no funding. The bill is proposed as budget neutral, stating the existing system can absorb the costs.
FEDERAL: Our federal level advocacy often involves public comments to CMS (Center for Medicare Medicaid) and various legislation regarding mental health, housing, healthcare, education and justice related issues. NAMI Southwestern PA meets locally and in Washington with Senators and our regional Representatives.
Hot Topic: Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015.
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) along with Rep. Eddie Johnson (D-TX), in a bipartisan effort, announced the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015 (H.R. 2646). This is a revised, changed version of H.R. 3717, Rep. Murphy’s 2013 bill.
Our Position: NAMI Southwestern PA acknowledges support for many positive provisions as well as negative provisions that are opposed. We are completing our analysis and look forward to working with Congressman Murphy and advocating for revisions.