Pa. Rep. Schlossberg among lawmakers at White House summit on mental health issues

Monday Morning Coffee: The meeting focused on efforts to advance mental health care and substance abuse aid

By: - October 3, 2022 7:12 am

State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh,(Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).

State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, was one of 15 state legislators from across the country who participated in a recent bipartisan White House summit on mental health issues.

Friday’s White House summit, convened to coincide with Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, focused on the Biden administration’s efforts to advance mental health and substance use care, according to a readout of the session.

It was chaired by officials from the White House’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Domestic Policy Council, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Schlossberg, who has spoken publicly about his own mental health struggles, is one of the Legislature’s more outspoken advocates on such issues.

During this year’s budget debate, the Allentown Democrat pushed for legislative authorization of a $100 million mental health aid package.

The final, approved spending plan included a a nearly $43 million increase for county mental health programs, WESA-FM in Pittsburgh reported. It was the first significant increase in funding in more than a decade, according to the station.

One in five Americans now live with a mental illness, according to 2020 data compiled by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Direct service providers rally for more money in the 2022-23 state budget at the Pennsylvania state Capitol on May 24, 2022 in Harrisburg, Pa (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).
Direct service providers rally for more money in the 2022-23 state budget at the Pennsylvania State Capitol on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).

In its readout of the meeting, the administration noted its efforts to prevent suicide, which took the lives of 45,000 people nationwide in 2020.

That included the launch of the ‘988’ crisis response line, which went live in Pennsylvania and nationwide on July 16 of this year.

In Pennsylvania, 988 will connect callers and texters to one of the commonwealth’s 13 crisis call centers for support, the Capital-Star reported at the time.

In communities where mobile crisis mental health teams are available, the call centers can dispatch those teams to “provide on-site support and interventions,” according to the state Department of Human Services, which has oversight of mental health programs in the commonwealth.

In its readout of the session, the White House said it’s “invested $432 million – an 18-fold increase in federal support – to help states prepare for the transition to 988, providing critical resources to help ensure access to trained crisis counselors via phone, chat, and text.”

During the session, lawmakers “discussed steps they are taking to address the mental health crisis, including funding for ‘988’ services which depend on state support for call centers and follow-on behavioral health crisis services,” the White House said.

Lawmakers “also shared their efforts to address mental health workforce shortages, increase accessibility of in-person and tele-health services, and ensure that individuals in the criminal justice system have access to behavioral health services,” the White House said.

Schlossberg highlighted the session in a series of posts to his personal Twitter feed. The session also coincided with an official Rosh Hashanah observance.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.