On January 2, 2020 Governor Tom Wolf announced a focused multi-agency effort
and anti-stigma campaign, titled Reach
Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters, aimed at expanding resources and the
state’s comprehensive support of mental health and related health care
priorities. The governor announced several initiatives and reviews the
administration will undertake for commonwealth agencies to bolster the effort.
Further, over the coming weeks, agencies will announce additional initiatives.
The governor was joined by mental health advocates, social workers, educators,
military veterans, and cabinet secretaries in making the announcement.
“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 study from the University of Southern
California, approximately 1 million adult
Pennsylvanians struggled with serious psychological distress at least once in
2015. Of those adults, more than 27 percent had an unmet need for mental health
care. That population includes 42 percent who did not receive mental health
care because they could not afford it. Thus, the multi-agency approach will be
instituted to better address these needs.
The Pennsylvania Insurance Department (PID) will pursue Mental Health Parity
regulations to ensure Pennsylvanians’ health insurance coverage provides access
to affordable mental health care. Recent market conduct reviews by the PID
found that insurance companies are not adequately meeting federal and state
requirements for mental health parity, necessitating stronger state
regulations. PID also will release educational tools to help patients better
understand their mental health benefits and access services.
The Department of Human Services will take steps to incentivize the
integration of physical and behavioral health services to remove barriers to
coordinating care and treatment. DHS will create financial incentives to
encourage managed care organizations that provide Medical Assistance benefits
to create, maintain, and continuously improve collaboration between the
entities and providers that coordinate and deliver physical health benefits and
mental health benefits.
The Department of Health will conduct a review of the current network
adequacy process to ensure that consumers enrolled in the Medicaid program and
commercial insurance products are able to access mental health care providers
when services are necessary and without prohibitive costs.
The departments of Labor & Industry and State will study solutions that
address the inadequacy of the mental health workforce across Pennsylvania, including evaluating mental
health practitioners across the commonwealth by level of care they provide, the
competitiveness of salaries and benefits, and barriers of entry to the
Many Pennsylvanians do not access the mental health care they need or do not
reach out for help because they fear having a label or stigma attached to them
by their family, friends, and community. By raising awareness of the normalcy
and importance of mental health care, others will be less fearful of the
nationally recognized response to the opioid and substance use disorder crisis
included public engagement and open conversations to combat stigma. The Wolf
administration will deploy the practices used by the Department of Drug and
Alcohol Programs to lead a similar effort around mental health and mental
The Department of Education will create pathways to increase the number of
highly qualified social workers trained to work in our schools. School social
workers play a unique role in addressing mental health by providing holistic
services and supports in the school setting, such as crisis management, mental
health treatment, and engaging the school, family and community in enhancing
existing student support structures that ensure the success of all students.
Pathways will include new certification, among other options, to enhance who
can provide social work services in Pennsylvania’s
The Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and
Delinquency will evaluate how to ensure every school district can provide a
full-time counselor, social worker and nurse, along with increasing more
counseling and mental health services at post-secondary institutions.
The Office of Advocacy and Reform will coordinate and expand upon ongoing
efforts in the commonwealth to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and
implement more trauma-informed approaches in education, health care, the
criminal justice system and other government institutions.
The administration will expand training of constituent affairs personnel on
suicide prevention and mental health intervention. To date, more than 420
workers at the Department of Labor & Industry have received suicide
prevention training. With this training, workers have already been able to
recognize people who need help with their mental health, to intervene and
connect them with services or support.
The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs will review the adequacy of
federal and state programs in educating members of the military and veterans on
resources available to them, especially those struggling with Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder and at risk for harming themselves or others.
The Department of Aging will expand its efforts to create a
by collaborating with national and statewide partners to support training,
build awareness and promote action among community stakeholders.
Reach Out PA will include roundtable discussions to hear directly from those
battling the stigma of mental illness, collaboration with community-based
organizations to help increase public attention on mental illness and mental
health care, and outreach to elevate success stories and best practices. Gov.
Wolf hosted the first roundtable on Friday, January 3rd at Muhlenberg College
in Allentown. The
roundtable was convened with the help of Rep. Mike Schlossberg, who takes an
active role in furthering the goal of increased access and reduced stigma to
mental health care. In the coming weeks, state agencies and legislators will
announce additional roundtable discussions across the state aimed at gathering
additional input on regional initiatives and needs.