Get. Counties ask lawmakers to put mental health, 911 services, and elections front and center

A group of county commissioners laid out their priorities

  • Sam Dinclau

Chip Abramovich, president of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, along with other county commissioners, speaks at a news conference in Harrisburg, Jan. 25, 2023.

Sam Dunclau / WITF

Chip Abramovich, president of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, along with other county commissioners, speaks at a news conference in Harrisburg, Jan. 25, 2023.

Pennsylvania county commissioners are outlining a handful of policy goals they want state lawmakers to tackle next year.

At the top of that list is making sure county 911 services are funded – and that continues. next generation 911 Upgradation projects are carried out.

“Achieving this priority will ensure that all Pennsylvania residents and visitors to our great commonwealth continue to have a quick and efficient connection to 911 operations and services no matter what,” said Chip Abramovich, president of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. said at a press event in Harrisburg on Wednesday.

While everyone with a phone in Pennsylvania is billed regularly surcharge of $1.65 to pay for the 911 call network, State Law The one that set up that funding stream expires next January.

The commissioners are also pushing for pre-campaign rules that would let election workers process mail-in ballots before the election. They also want to advance the state’s mail-in ballot application deadline.

Voters are allowed to submit their application in person up to one week before the election. County workers have said that makes it nearly impossible for latecomers to get their ballots in time to be counted.

,[We] need clear rules that enable consistent implementation [of elections] across the commonwealth,” said Joe Kantz, who is chairman of the Snyder County Board of Commissioners. “Reforms are needed to resolve ambiguities.”

Despite bipartisan urging, state legislators have failed to agree to any of these changes since Act 77 — the state’s most recent election law update — was enacted four years ago.

The counties also want more government funding for community mental health programs. A WITF investigation late last year found that people with mental health conditions are increasingly ending up in county jails, which are often not equipped to handle them. The investigation found that those present are routinely subjected to violence by guards who are trying to maintain order.

“The lack of adequate state funding, which has failed to meet demand, coupled with rising cases and cost inflation, have pushed the community psychiatric system to the point of collapse,” said Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick.

“It’s probably one of the most crumbling systems of all of our human service delivery systems,” he said.

Dauphin County has said that about half of the people in its jail have a mental health condition. Of more than 450 uses of force by guards in 25 Pennsylvania prisons during the fall of 2021, nearly one in three involved individuals with a mental health crisis or a known mental health condition.

Hartwick said state lawmakers could use the remaining $100 million pot of pandemic relief money to help improve mental health services. House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) said endorsed that idea last fall, depends on how A trio of special elections set for February 7 Turns out, his party may control the State House by a razor-thin margin.

That House did not kneel for the session because it is deadlocked over procedural rules. Newly elected Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-BERK) is leading a working group aimed at resolving that issue.

Abramovich said his group is working closely with new governor Josh Shapiro, who was once Montgomery County commissioner, to get those things done. Asked about advancing those ideas in the nearly evenly divided House, Abramovich was upbeat.

“We see this as an opportunity. We can bring them together on common bipartisan issues.


Leave a Comment