The county leaders are advocating for $28 million to fund community crisis services and residential mental health services.
Gabriela Martínez, WITF
(Harrisburg)-County commissioners in Pennsylvania said their top legislative priorities include addressing the human services workforce shortage and spending money on child and youth welfare services, broadband expansion, 911 operations, election funding and resources.
They say it is harder for people to find mental health support.
“While all industries are suffering workforce shortages, human services are unique as they rely entirely on people to deliver those services. Those roles cannot be performed by computers or other machines,” said Kevin Boozel, Butler County commissioner and board chair of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, in virtual news conference Thursday.
Daryl Miller, Bradford County commissioner and president of the association, said it is advocating for $28 million to fund community crisis services, residential mental health services, and provide support to hospitals and county jails.
“We support the development of programs and partnerships to streamline recruitment efforts while creating county employment pipelines. To do this, we are also in favor of reducing regulatory barriers to ease the burdens on counties’ human services staff,” Boozel said.
The association identifies and presents its legislative priorities each year that guide the organization’s advocacy efforts with state legislators. The goals are updated to the needs that arise in counties over time.
The commissioners stressed the need for strengthening investigations of child abuse. Dauphin County County Commissioner George Hartwick said child abuse caseloads are increasing, and that more state funding is needed to hire more caseworkers.
Another legislative priority for county leaders is improving the operation and funding of 911 call-taking and dispatch systems.
“Our 911 system faces significant challenges, including rapidly evolving technology requirements, and a funding stream whose failure to keep pace with the need requires counties to rely increasingly on the property tax,” said Mark Hamilton, Tioga County commissioner and co-chair of the CCAP Emergency Medical Services Task Force.
Sherene Hess, Indiana County commissioner and chair of the CCAP Elections Reform Committee, said counties need adequate funding and time for changes in election procedures and equipment and recruitment of county election staff.
“The implementation of mail in ballots for all Pennsylvanians was a significant change to our election administration, causing a significant increase in budgets for elections related costs in both 2020 and 2021,” Hess said.
County leaders recommend extending the pre-canvassing period for mail-in and absentee ballots. They also support moving back the deadline for absentee and mail-in ballot applications to 15 days prior to an election.
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