Updates from the Capitol
InVision Discusses DSP Wages and Rate Refresh with Governor’s Office
On January 3, 2020, InVision Human Services met with top officials from Governor Tom Wolf’s administration and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) to discuss the Governor’s upcoming Budget Recommendations for fiscal year 2020/2021.
Specifically, InVision sought to discuss the $1.50 per hour wage increase for Direct Support Professionals (DSP) and the “rate refresh”: a portion of 6100 Regulations that mandates an update every three years to the calculation used to determine Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) waiver rates to ensure DSP wages remain appropriate and consistent with inflation. Both of these issues are of critical importance to InVision.
InVision is working with Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Intellectual Disability and Autism (PAR), and we hope that sufficient additional funding will be included in the budget, which will be enacted on July 1, 2020 by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Budget details will be released in stages beginning on February 5 from the Governor followed by hearings in the PA Senate and House on February 26, 2020 and March 4, 2020, respectively.
Governor Wolf Introduces Comprehensive Mental Health Agenda
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf launched a new mental health initiative this month through the creation of a public outreach campaign: “Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters”. This campaign aims to address available resources for people with mental health disorders and the stigmas associated with seeking and accepting treatment.
“I want to end the silence because I want to end the stigma,” Governor Tom Wolf said at a news conference earlier this month. “The second step in this, of course, is ensuring that every Pennsylvanian has access to the care they need.”
Through the initiative, the administration plans to develop new state regulations on health insurance coverage; coordinate services for physical and behavioral health; analyze pay and other factors for those who provide mental health services; and find ways to get more social workers into schools. Other aspects of the program include training more state workers in suicide prevention and assessing Department of Military and Veterans Affairs resources regarding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and self-harm.
Governor Wolf’s agenda on mental health opens the door for a similar response to our community of people with intellectual disabilities and autism; however, the plan doesn’t adequately outline the further investment of state dollars needed to increase access to these services.
New PA House Human Services Chair
House Speaker Mike Turzai announced Representative Tom Murt, a Republican from suburban Philadelphia as the new chair of the House Human Services Committee after the resignation of Representative Gene DiGirolamo.
Under Rep. Murt’s leadership, little change is expected in the focus or direction of the committee. Rep. DiGirolamo supported Governor Wolf’s expansion of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, but he also supported maintaining state intellectual and developmental disability centers and was a strong proponent of SB 906.
SB 906 Passes PA House, Governor Plans Veto
On Wednesday, January 15, 2020, the PA House voted to pass SB 906, a bill aiming to block the closures of Polk and White Haven state centers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. During debate, state legislators demonstrated confusion on the difference between Medicare and Medicaid while perpetuating misunderstandings about people in the ID/A community.
Governor Wolf has vowed to veto the bill, and he expects the veto to be sustained by the PA Senate.
New House Human Services Chair Tom Murt reminded legislators about ID/A priorities beyond the SB 906 debate, and J.J. Abbott—Governor Tom Wolf’s spokesperson—issued a statement on the Governor’s intention to veto the bill and the need for legislators to focus on more investment into community-based programs.
The House’s final version of the bill removed the provision requiring all people on the waiting list to be served before a state center could close and instead inserted a five-year moratorium on future closures based on a closure commission’s recommendations.
U.S. Department of Health Office of Inspector General Issues Report Critical of PA System
The PA Department of Human Services, Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) received a highly critical report from the U.S. Department of Human Services, Office of Inspector General last month regarding the reporting of critical incidents, including deaths, injuries, and emergency room visits. ODP has accepted the federal report and conceded that incidents that occurred during the period of 2015-2016 were problematic but assured the federal government the newly adopted 6100 Regulations greatly strengthen the state’s reporting system.
InVision Human Services leadership has written to the Governor urging the inclusion of significant increased community funding to address systemic shortcomings in the state’s supervision and administration of ID/A programs.