"Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters" is an all-agency effort and anti-stigma campaign which intends to expand resources for mental health care in Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Wolf announced the launch this week and promised more commonwealth agencies would be speaking out about about mental health support in the coming weeks.
“For those struggling with their mental health, we have one message: your mental health matters and it’s okay to reach out for help,” Gov. Wolf said. “We are stepping up our efforts to ensure every Pennsylvanian can access mental health care and more agencies can respond to the challenges facing Pennsylvanians struggling with their mental health. The act of reaching out for help – or to help – can make a huge difference for someone struggling.”
According to a 2017 University of Southern California study, approximately one million adult Pennsylvanians struggled with serious psychological distress at least once in 2015. Of those, more than 27% had an unmet need for mental health care, including 42% who said that they did not receive care because they could not afford it.
The Pennsylvania Insurance Department (PID) will pursue Mental Health Parity regulations to ensure that Pennsylvanians' health insurance coverage provides access to affordable mental health care. This comes after reviews from the PID which found that insurance companies were largely not meeting federal and state requirements for mental health parity.
PID will also be releasing educational tools to help patients better understand their mental health benefits and access services.
The Department of Human Services will be taking steps to incentivize the integration of physical and behavioral health services to remove barriers to coordinating care. This will include financial incentives to encourage care organizations that provide medical assistance benefits to create, maintain, and continually improve collaboration between providers of physical health care and mental health care.
The Department of Health will conduct a review of the current network adequacy process, which will ensure that those enrolled in the Medicaid program and buyers of commercial insurance can access mental health care without prohibitive costs.
Pennsylvania's departments of Labor, Industry, and State will perform studies about the number and quality of mental health practitioners within the state, including evaluating level of care, salaries and benefits, and barriers of entry into the workforce.
In addition, the governor will hold roundtable discussions about ending the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Planned courses of action include emphasizing the normalcy of mental health difficulties, working with community groups, and spreading success stories to encourage people to seek help.
To care for children's mental health, the Department of Education, the Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and the Office of Advocacy and Reform will be working on making social workers, guidance counselors, and nurses more available to school students.
Efforts will be expanded to train state workers to provide suicide prevention and interventions, help veterans to learn what services are available to them, and build awareness around dementia.
Overall, Governor Wolf compared the mental health initiatives to efforts in combating the opioid crisis: a statewide, multifaceted effort to deal with an issue that has spiraled out of control.