Advocates from southeast Pennsylvania rallied alongside legislators and other advocates from across the state at the Capitol in Harrisburg on June 10, calling for a restoration of the 10 percent cuts to community mental health that were taken away three years ago.
Led by a team of advocates from the Mental Health Association of Southeastern PA (MHASP), members of CSP and Community Advocates were armed with a three-prong message: restore mental health funding in the state budget, implement mental health parity in our state, and step up the process of reforming forensic involvement with people with mental health conditions.
Showing their support for restoring funds and the need for quality mental health services were House Representatives Tom Murt, Montgomery County, Gene DiGirolamo, Bucks County, Margo Davidson, Delaware County, and Senator Vincent Hughes from Philadelphia, as well as Sue Walther, Director of the Mental Health Association in PA (MHAPA).
On his Facebook page Rep. Murt wrote:
“I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at a rally today to draw attention to the needs of people who depend on our Department of Human Services. As we debate what to include in our budget, we must commit ourselves to reducing the waiting list for services and to giving a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.”
Speaking for herself was Regional CSP Technical Assistant Penny Johnson. She spoke passionately about finding her own voice after struggling with homelessness and mental health issues, and how, with the help of community resources, she also found employment and housing. Johnson, a Certified Peer Specialist, stressed the importance of the CSP network that unites stakeholders in the mental health system to advocate together at the local, regional and state level.
Forensic Advocate and Certified Peer Specialist J.B. Brooks voiced his concerns about the struggles of individuals who have mental health and criminal justice issues. Brooks, who has lived experience in both areas, facilitates a justice and recovery re-entry class at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF) called “It’s T.I.M.E.” The class stands for Think, Identify, Make changes and Enter a new life. Individuals learn about mental health, how to navigate the criminal justice system, how to identify and change distorted thinking, and are assisted in creating a re-entry plan to use upon discharge.
After the rally, advocates met in small groups and held pre-arranged meetings with legislators and/or legislative staff. Literature was handed out as well as information about specific services and programs offered in their districts.
But the advocacy work isn’t over. Now the negotiations start between legislators, who have some budget counterproposals, and the Governor. See “Here’s what you can do to help.”
Here’s what you can do to help:
- Today – Call, visit, email and/or write your local House Representative and State Senator and tell them what you think about mental health services and if they have benefited you, a friend, family member, neighbor or co-worker. Each time you contact a legislator about an issue through any of these methods, it is recorded. The more calls on an issue, the more likely it makes the legislator’s radar.
- Tell others about the state budget proposal and educate them about the need for more funding for community mental health. Be specific about which services and programs you think are worthy of attention and funding.
- Urge others to contact their legislators about mental health and human services issues.
- Call or mail a thank you to Governor Wolf for proposing in the state budget to restore the cuts to mental health made in 2012.
- Call Community Advocates at 610-270-0375 if you have any questions about advocacy or to find out the names of your legislators.
- If you have internet access, google “who is my PA legislator” to find your representative.
Suicide Prevention at the Commissioner’s Meeting
On Thursday, September 12, 2013, I attended the Montgomery County Commissioners meeting to support the county’s efforts to educate the public about suicide prevention during National Suicide Prevention Week. After a moment of silence to remember those who had lost their lives, we heard from various members of the Montgomery County Suicide Prevention Task Force who have been spearheading an effort to “stop the silence” that surrounds suicide. Because of the stigma surrounding suicide, many people do not get the help they need.
The Task Force, whose members include the Montgomery County Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities, Montgomery County Emergency Services and NAMI-Montgomery County, came together to share information, resourses and initiatives to help in suicide prevention. The suicide rate in Montgomery County has increased 83.9% from 2005 to 2011. Suicide is second leading cause of death in 25-34 year olds and third leading cause of death in 10-24 year olds.
Nancy Wieman, Deputy Administrator of the county’s Department of BH/DD, introduced a new website called Montcocares which was created by the organizations on the task force. Wieman, who is the chair of the task force, said the website was designed to be a resource center on suicide prevention and features information, facts and resources on suicide and what needs to be known after an attempt. It is also a resource for organizations related to suicide awareness and prevention.
Wieman said the task force wants everyone to know that Montgomery County does care when it comes to suicide prevention.
Community Advocates of Montgomery County and Hopeworx Inc. applaud the efforts of the Task Force to bring this important cause into the public eye as a Proclamation by the county commissioners, through the creation of the Montcocares website and the distribution of the Suicide Prevention Took Kits. The pocket-size tool kits are distributed to individuals and organizations who may come in contact with people contemplating suicide. It provides information for indentifying possible suicide risk, determining if an individual may be at risk, and intervening to safely help the individual. It is meant to complement a more comprehensive training on crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
I encourage you to visit Montcocares at www.montcocares.org and learn more about how you can help stop the silence and stigma of suicide.
Kathie Mitchell, Director of Community Advocates