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Letter to the Editor: Stop State Cuts to Mental Healthcare

W. James McFalls, Executive Director of KenCrest Services, calls on Gov. Corbett to keep his promise to make caring for people with intellectual disabilities and autism a core committment of his administration.

As a candidate, Governor Corbett promised that the state’s responsibility to people with disabilities, specifically intellectual disabilities (ID) and autism, would be a core commitment of his government. We agreed, and we would like him to keep that promise.

A number of recent decisions made by the Governor’s Secretary of Public Welfare (DPW) effectively gut the funding for those providing service to people with ID and autism, forcing providers to reduce or eliminate services. Rates have been imposed that ignore the actual level of need of the people being served without the input of families, providers, advocacy groups, or legislators. Services that the state has approved and the agencies have delivered in good faith are not being paid for. Services that people need to manage their disabilities are not being funded.

This arbitrary series of decisions indicates that the state has lost its vision for improving the lives of people with ID and autism. As part of his "reduce the welfare rolls" initiative, the Secretary of DPW has decreed a 6% across-the-board rate cut. His decision ignores the fact that, unlike most people applying for welfare as a temporary safety net, people with ID and autism have lifelong, chronic disabilities and need lifelong services.

The funding changes put in place by DPW puts our agency, KenCrest, and other private community agencies like it in the position of not being able to provide the very services the state demands from us. At this moment, the difference between what the state is paying and the cost of the services they want KenCrest to provide is $2.3 million. As a business, KenCrest cannot afford to operate this way. DPW would have us absorb this deficit and move on. 

It is shortsighted to ignore that our 2,000 staff pay taxes and support their community’s small businesses. Thousands of the people we support also work, pay taxes on their earnings, and make purchases in their community. This amounts to many millions of dollars annually contributed to the local and state economy.

The state is ultimately responsible for the care and treatment of its citizens with ID and autism. If the state will not fairly pay private provider agencies to do this, then the people being served will have to go back to the state, who will have to figure out a way to provide these services themselves. The fear is that the state will place these people back in institutions, a direct path to lawsuits. It is also true that it costs the state approximately twice as much to provide these services in one of their institutions as it costs agencies like KenCrest in the community.

Please join me in calling on Governor Corbett to keep his promise to care for the needs of our citizens with ID and autism.

W. James McFalls is a licensed Pennsylvania psychologist and Executive Director of KenCrest Services/Lynch Services.

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