"Act 54 of 2022 established the Behavioral Health Commission for Adult Mental Health. The 24-member Commission was charged with providing recommendations to the General Assembly on the allocation of one-time $100 million funding to address adult behavioral health needs. This report encompasses the recommendations compiled by the Commission." Autism Connection of Pennsylvania Board Member, Hon. William F. Ward gives insight into the 2022 Behavioral Health Commission Report.
We are powered by an amazing board of trustees who actively engage in the work we need to in order to be a lifeline for families and adults, which is our mission. One of our unsung heroes is the Hon. William F. Ward (Bill) who serves on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). As PCCD’s representative, Bill was key in creating funding opportunities in this Behavioral Health Commission Special Report. Follow the link below to read the full report.
Act 54 Areas of Focus (page 3)
- Delivery of services using telemedicine
- Behavioral health rates, network adequacy, and mental health payment parity
- Workforce development and retention
- Expansion of certified peer support specialist services and peer-run services
- Development and provision of crisis services
- Integration of behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment
- Cultural competencies when providing behavioral health care
- Impact of social determinants of health on behavioral health
- Intersection of behavioral health and the criminal justice system
- Establishment of an integrated care model that can deliver timely psychiatric care in a primary care setting
On page 7, the Commission recommends that we “develop and expand upon pre-arrest diversion programs that connect people with resources in a time of crisis, including individuals with intellectual disabilities and with autism spectrum disorder.”
Bill Ward took a few moments to answer some clarifying questions about the recommendations:
Autism Connection: What does “pre-arrest” actually mean?
Bill Ward: There are two different types of arrests. There is a custodial arrest, which is when a person is detained, is not free to leave the scene, placed in handcuffs, and removed to the local police department. (There are also non-custodial arrests, such as when a person is given a citation or ticket for a summary offense but is allowed to leave the scene without being processed at the local police department.) The concept of “pre-arrest” is focused upon those encounters or incidents where the police have the discretion to not detain and charge a person, but instead would “divert” them from being criminally charged. In my mind, “pre-arrest” is too narrow a restriction. More often, the police will detain and charge a person. Even so, much good work can be done to divert the offender after the arrest but prior to the Preliminary Hearing, usually set for 10 days later.
Autism Connection: Can you give us a brief description of the co-responder model? Is there a good resource for this model?
Bill Ward: One definition is: “A model for crisis response that pairs trained police officers with mental health professionals to respond to incidents involving individuals experiencing behavioral health crises.” Here’s a link to an article discussing the co-responder model:
The BHC Report recommends that $5 million be dedicated to counties to develop or expand co-responder models, and to train first responders in crisis intervention.
Autism Connection: Anything you’d like to add?
Bill Ward: Yes. While $23.5 million is recommended to improve the criminal justice and public safety systems, $5 million (of the $23.5 million) will be to develop and expand upon pre-arrest diversion programs that connect people with resources in a time of crisis. The Behavioral Health Commission was receptive to put in that such funding expressly include “individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
Autism Connection of Pennsylvania recognizes the tireless dedication our Board of Trustees demonstrates. When you see something that speaks to your need, know that our awesome board has had their fingerprints on that – for our literal minded readers, this means they have inspired, worked on, or supported that activity in a meaningful way.