Human Services Committee moves two bills out of committee

HARRISBURG, May 23 – Today, the PA House Human Services Committee voted two bills out of committee to address mental health initiatives and funding for programs as well as funding for kinship care legal assistance.

The first bill (H.B. 849), introduced by state Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, would take recommendations from the Behavioral Health Commission on Adult Mental Health on how to appropriate $100 million in one-time ARPA funds.

As part of the 2022-23 budget (through Act 54 of 2022), the General Assembly established the Behavioral Health Commission on Adult Mental Health, a 24-person commission tasked with providing recommendations to the General Assembly on how to appropriate $100 million in one-time ARPA funding to address adult behavioral health needs in Pennsylvania.

The commission, composed of experts in the behavioral health field, advocates, providers, and legislators, met over the course of four weeks for a total of 17 hours to create a set of recommendations they believe would be the first step towards true change for all Pennsylvanians.

H.B. 849 would take the following recommendations from the commission and turn them into actionable legislation, as well as expand these efforts to address the needs of struggling youth:

  • $37 million towards workforce development. 
  • $23.5 million to improve the criminal justice system and public safety systems.
  • $39 million to expand access and service delivery.
  • $500,000 to evaluate the overall impact of the appropriations.

Human Services Committee Chairman Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., who has been a longtime mental health advocate, offered praise of his committee for voting this legislation out of committee.

“Far too many Pennsylvanians across the commonwealth struggle with their mental health, but don’t have easy access to resources that can help them address it,” Kinsey said. “As a longtime advocate for mental health services, I am pleased to see Rep. Schlossberg’s legislation to tackle this crucial issue voted out of this committee.”

The other bill (H.B. 931), introduced by state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, would create a Kinship Care Legal Assistance Grant Program.

Grant funds awarded from the program would be used for the administrative, civil legal services, and other costs associated with a kinship caregiver. This would support kinship families, whether they are looking to obtain custody or adoption or power of attorney for the child's medical and educational care or establish legal standing with the child to make daily caregiving decisions. 

Kinsey also offered praise of H.B 931 and its passage out of committee.

“Many Pennsylvania children are raised by grandparents or other kinship caregivers, and I know that a grant program to provide assistance for them can be extremely helpful,” Kinsey said. “I support my colleague, Rep. Pashinski, and his bill and applaud my colleagues for voting it out of committee.”

Both bills will head to the House Floor for consideration.