BLOG: Investing in Human Services in the 2016-17 Budget

By: Ted Dallas, Secretary of Human Services

February 16, 2016

The Department of Human Services (DHS) delivers critical services to our most vulnerable populations: older Pennsylvanians, children, people with disabilities, and low-income individuals. This safety net serves nearly 1 out of 4 Pennsylvanians and provides invaluable help to people in their time of need.

Without the resources to respond, thousands of our neighbors, family members, and friends will not receive the services they need. They will be forced to choose between the medicines they need and putting food on the table or paying their rent.

Low-Income Home Energy Association Program (LIHEAP) season begins

Pennsylvania is facing a nearly $2 billion deficit that will balloon to more than $2.6 billion in the coming years. The deficit is a ticking time bomb over Pennsylvania. When it explodes, we will be forced to cut funding for human service programs and senior assistance in order to balance the budget.

We can build on the progress made in the past year by continuing to improve the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians with smart investments, continuing the fight against opioids, and helping seniors receive the medical assistance they need. Or we can choose a different path and our looming deficit will force deep cuts in human services and senior assistance.

Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed budget delivers these vital services and will help thousands of Pennsylvanians avoid having to make these choices.

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This year, the governor is continuing to combat the opioid epidemic that has killed thousands of Pennsylvanians. Too many vibrant lives have been lost to this epidemic and we all need to play a part in addressing it. Governor Wolf’s proposed 2016-17 budget provides more than $34 million to treat more than 11,250 new individuals with substance use disorder. The Department of Human Services will provide 25 new Health Homes for individuals with substance use disorder, providing medication-assisted treatment and appropriate wraparound services, such as cognitive-based therapies. After this first phase of implementation, there will be a push for 25 more health homes that would have the capacity to treat 22,500 individuals total.

Another critical component to DHS’ budget is the proposed $10 million to increase support to at-risk families through evidence-based home visiting services. These services, combined with supportive practices, have been proven to assist with prevention of child abuse and the early identification of children with special needs or developmental delays.

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Every Pennsylvanian should have a choice as to where they live. Governor Wolf is proposing $43.1 million to support Community HealthChoices, a plan designed to increase opportunities for older Pennsylvanians and individuals with physical disabilities to remain in their homes. Rolling out in January 2017 in Southwestern Pennsylvania, this plan will improve care coordination and health outcomes for 450,000 people.

Without a real budget that appropriately funds social services, none of these important initiatives will happen. If we all work together to the support the governor’s budget, we can reaffirm Pennsylvania’s rich history of helping the most vulnerable among us and make sure that they get the high-quality services they deserve.

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