MEMO: Republican Budget Impact on Human Services

August 12, 2015

To: Interested Parties
From: Jeff Sheridan
Date: August 12, 2015
Subject: Republican Budget Impact on Human Services

Over the last four years, human service agencies in Pennsylvania have struggled as a result of drastic funding cuts enacted by Republicans. Governor Wolf understands the challenges that service providers face and that’s why his budget is a hugely important step in restoring these state funds.

The governor’s budget restores funding for county human service agencies, increases funding for programs that help aging Pennsylvanians while also increasing choices for their care and support, and provides additional funding for programs that help individuals with disabilities.

The governor’s proposed budget commits $27.9 million dollars to county-run human services as the first step to fully restoring all of the cuts enacted by Republicans over three years. Governor Wolf’s budget also provides $2.5 million dollars to the Department of Human Services to fight the growing heroin and opioid epidemic, invests an additional $500,000 to promote employment for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and includes $1 million to reduce homelessness among veterans.

The budget passed by Republicans is detrimental to human services and continues the damaging cuts they enacted over the past 4 years.

Even a Republican county commissioner from Berks County says the Republicans made “a very serious error” in their budget regarding human services:

“Berks County Commissioners Chairman Christian Y. Leinbach said Thursday that the GOP budget contained at least one major flaw. ‘There is a very serious error in the budget,’ Leinbach said during the comments portion of the weekly meeting. ‘If the budget had been signed, we would be facing a financial crisis in Berks CYS (Children and Youth Services),’ Leinbach said. ‘Before the Legislature moves forward with that budget this has to get fixed.’” [Reading Eagle, 8/7/15]

The commissioner is right, and unfortunately, the errors don’t stop there. The Republican budget:

  • Shifts $172 million worth of payments to counties for services for abused and neglected children into the next fiscal year, which creates further budgeting issues for counties and exacerbates the structural deficit.
  • Underfunds health care services to Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens delivered through managed care organizations – these payments are mandatory, meaning that we will have to pay them if they are budgeted or not, requiring a supplemental appropriation this year or additional funding in the following budget.
  • Maintains $27.9 million in cuts to county programs from the previous administration, reducing services and increasing pressure on local taxpayers.

Below is a detailed breakdown of the damage the Republican budget would inflict on human services and related programs:

  • The Republican budget shifts payments to counties for services for abused and neglected children will be shifted to next year, a $172 million funding gimmick that will further kick the can down the road.
  • The Republican proposal reduces mandatory funding for health care services to Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens delivered through managed care organizations by shifting costs to the next year.

Community-Based Services for Individuals Living with Mental Illness, Intellectual Disabilities, and Autism

  • The Republican budget only provides funding to move 130 individuals with intellectual disabilities off of the waiting list – only one-third of the 400 individuals provided for in the Governor’s budget.
  • As of April 30, 2015, there were approximately 10,234 individuals with emergency and critical needs on the intellectual disabilities waiting list and as of June 3, 2015, there were approximately 1,675 individuals on the autism interest list.

Rebalancing the Long-Term Living System

  • Cuts $1.695 million in home and community-based services for 144 individuals in the LIFE program and eliminates $2.38 million necessary to provide access to home and community-based services which will negatively impact 360 additional older Pennsylvanians.
  • Without these budget increases, DHS may be forced to implement waiting lists for home and community-based services for individuals with physical disabilities and older Pennsylvanians.
  • Individuals who are unable to endure the timeframe of a waiting list may be forced to enter a nursing facility, rather than receive services in their home or community. For every month a resident receives care in the community as opposed to a nursing facility, the state is able to save $2,457, offsetting more than $162.2 million in future nursing home costs.

Locks in Cuts to County Human Services

  • Significant cuts were made to county human services programs in FY 2012-13. The reductions impacted the following appropriations:
    • Mental Health Community Based Funded Services
    • Behavioral Health Services Initiative
    • Intellectual Disabilities Community Based Funded Services
    • Child Welfare Special Grants
    • Drug and Alcohol Act 152 Funds
    • Homeless Assistance Program
    • Human Services Development Fund

The Republican budget maintains $27.9 million in cuts to county programs, reducing services and increasing pressure on local taxpayers.

Combating the Heroin Crisis in Pennsylvania

The Governor’s budget invested $7.5 million in additional funding to address the heroin crisis in Pennsylvania, but the Republican budget slashes this vital initiative by $6 million. Specifically:

  • As part of the Governor’s plan to address the heroin crisis, there is $2.5 million in the proposed DHS budget for two pilot programs:
    • Distributing Naloxone to More First Responders: The Republican plan eliminates funding for 1,756 lifesaving Naloxone kits leaving first responders without this effective treatment.
    • Vivitrol and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Pilot for County Corrections: The Republican plan eliminates funding for 26 counties to provide addiction treatment for 3,308 citizens.
  • In addition, the $5 million initiative funded in Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is reduced by $3.5 million.

Employing Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

  • The Republican budget proposal eliminates $500,000 to provide additional supports to promote competitive employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, in collaboration with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation in the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. Without the proposed funding, many individuals with an intellectual disability may not have access to competitive and integrative employment, despite their ability to work.

Supporting Homeless Veterans

  • The Republican budget proposal eliminates $1 million in new funding to provide housing to homeless Veterans.
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